OK, so I watched the debates last Thursday night with a 40 in my hand, heart in my chest, hand over my eyes peeking through my fingers. Not because it's that hard for me to watch our president speak ... well no, it is that hard. But the reason I was on pins and needles is because I'm involved with Indyvoter.org and we're mobilizing young people in blocs across the nation to get out the progressive youth vote. All Kerry needs to do is hold it down.
I intended to play that drinking game where every time anyone says liberty, freedom, Saddam, Vietnam, Osama, my opponent sucks, etc., you drink, but after a minute into the debates I realized half my 40 was already gone and I needed to conserve like a Green, even if I wasn't voting like one this year.
For the first part of the debate, my heart was sinking. I watched Kerry and I thought, "'Where are your cajones! Why are you speaking in complete sentences? Charm me!" I watched Bush and I thought, as I usually do, "Where's Rove -- is he inside you? Under the podium? Wired into your ear? Down front with placards? Up above singing hosannas?"
Kerry politely smiled; Bush pumped his shoulders and made that little face where he'd snap his eyes wide and blink a few times like he'd been backhanded with a glove and then repeat himself. The moderator and post-debate commentators looked sorry for Bush. Kerry channeled Gore a few times by using actual Facts and Figures to make his case, and in response I chugged. It's not enough to be right, you have to be a thug about it! Bush channeled himself in every other speech he's given by repeating the words "liberty" and "prayer" and "freedom" as if they still mean anything coming from him. One of my friends watching commented that Bush is like the smartest kind of stupid person, because he understands that saying something with absolute down-home conviction can mask, to a certain extent, how untrue the statement is.
But in the end Kerry stepped up and -- still politely -- started going for the knees in true Scarface fashion. I liked that he was able to play "I served my time unlike this sniveling brat over here" AND "Vietnam was messed up and wrong" AND "Saddam is evil and so are other folk" AND "Iraq was done wrong" AND "Kyoto treaty mofo" AND "Let's respect the rest of the world." Bush relied on smoke and mirrors -- "Hey I'm diplomatic! Forget that whole U.N. thang. ... Hey, valleys of peace!" I wonder if he thinks bomb craters are valleys of peace.
I think Kerry won this one, hands down with his furious note-taking and his ability to attack the president without making it seem like a mud wrestling match. Bush lost by not having any specific figures -- all the numbers he gave were the kind of rounded up figures all liars use as a rhetorical tool -- and by making the case that even if Iraq is all messed up, which he wouldn't even concede, then it's better to stay wrong and make the troops feel good while they die than to admit we're wrong and pull out. And I am pretty sure Bush did the white guy version of sucking his teeth and rolling his neck, which is just tacky in a presidential debate.
I can't wait till Episode 2 of "The Gentleman And The Gangsta."
Adrienne Marie Brown is the co-author of How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office and an organizer for the League of Pissed Off Voters. Friday's presidential debate is scheduled to air at 7 p.m., MST.