October 21, 1996
(Milo Clark is off to Southern California seeking out some sacred sage in the mountains.)
According to the American Heritage dictionary a debate is "a discussion involving opposing points; an argument" or "a formal contest of argumentation in which two opposing teams defend and attack a given proposition." Not so in the theater of our political circus. The first rule of a presidential debate is that there be no debate. The participants cannot talk to each other. Together they are, on the same stage but somehow they barely acknowledge each other. Like two trains crossing in the middle of the night and in opposite directions. They whistle at each other a couple of times and they fade into the night. Soon, one even doubts there was a passing train in the first place.
Looking good is what counts and for the majority of the TV viewers the Braves and the Cardinals' contest looked so much better anyway that the theater in San Diego missed two-thirds of its patrons. The pre-debate pas-de-deux danced by Bobby Fruit Cake -- to attack or not to attack, that is the question -- did not materialize. The syndicated commentators were left improvising on a few jabs and sidesteps and the morning after was like the morning before, meaningless. They both looked good. They both went through their respective script. They both said nothing they had not already said. Members of the audience felt honored to represent us, asked the questions we would have asked and received the expected answers. Hard to be swayed one way or another. Boring to death it was. To be fully objective, which this author hopes never to be, what can you expect from such a format, the 90-60-30 seconds to address such issues as the economy, trade and foreign policies, the budget, the big "C" word and tutti quanti?
Then thinking of it a tad longer, a baby do-gooder comment made by his-word-is-his-bond Pineapple candidate, helped me reconsider my own yawning ennui. Answering to whatever in regard to welfare, Bob Dole said something that made me jump, in spite of my crippled leg. He said: "This is America, this is America, there are no hungry children in this country", or something to that effect (I confess to not having immediately recorded the famous man as I was too busy fighting to keep my balance on one leg and too afraid to fall and break an arm this time. So, do not sue me on the exact sequence of the sentence. The words were pronounced, though). Then, I waited.
I waited for the post-debate analysis of the press. I waited for the next day's news reports. I waited for the newspaper editorials. I even waited two days for the New York Times. I waited in vain. No one, not one pundit picked out or mentioned that comment by Dole. My initial reaction was to wonder about the probity of the former Senator. How could he so blatantly lie in front of a national audience, I wondered? How can a man who keeps hammering the words of trust, honesty and character act thus? Then, having recouped my physical and emotional balance, I cooled down and started rationalizing that he simply did not have his facts straight. Ignorance is bliss, isn't it? You cannot fault a man for not knowing something, can you? What I knew is that I certainly expected to see our next President be neither a liar nor an uninformed old dog. Regardless, it's a moot proposition since I am a legal Martian who cannot vote (just learned that beside following the laws of the country and paying my taxes, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, authorizes me to financially contribute to political parties and campaigns. Money, yes. Vote, no. Oh well, nothing new here!).
So, leaving my frustrations aside, I kept thinking about the matter and finally, Eureka, found out that the matter as it was had very little to do with Bobby Dolly. After all, he can lie or be ignorant since there is not one politician (of the other side of the same coin), not one political analyst, not one newscaster that challenges such an incorrect statement. The question is: Why is he not held accountable for this declaration? Had he instead said that President Clinton had had an affair with a secretary at the White House, do you think that this would have remained unquestioned? Of course not. This would have been the lead story in the media. And yet, there is a difference between these two assertions (the latter was not made, mind you). You would not know for a fact if Slick Willy had an affair but you should know that there are hungry children in this country, more than in almost all other industrialized nations, actually. And yet again, a fact is ignored but an innuendo would have made the headlines.
(Remember: "A people has the government it deserves")