Last night was like the first regular season game of the NFL season for me.
Nevermind that we might not have an NFL season.
Last night was the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire.
I get excited.
No, really, I do.
I love football. That wasn’t a sexist comparison; I will be terribly disappointed and possibly actually pissed if there is no NFL season this year. But I also love presidential campaigns.
I know. I’m really weird.
Ten minutes before the debate began, I was sort of ramping up. I had CNN on (CNN hosted the debate), and they were doing the introductions of the candidates. I could feel the tingling in my limbs and the fluttering in my belly. I wanted them to run out under a bridge of colored explosives and confetti and cheerleaders’ arms.
Just kidding. I didn’t want that.
It would be kind of cool if they played “Lllllet’sss get ready to rrrrrruuummbbbbbblllle!” first, though. Yeah. Jock Jams for politicians. That would be so sweet.
I had Facebook running and my cell phone in my hand so I could IM or text my fellow pseudo-wonky friends with running commentary akin to a game of Mystery Science Theater 3000: the Politics Episodes.
I can’t explain why I love it so much. Part of it is patriotism, sure. But I’m actually one of those people who thinks that television news networks should not use slo-mo animations of flapping American flags in various colorizations as the backgrounds for their graphics; it’s a giveaway to their biases. (Think about how American television news looks to people in other countries. It skews to an American worldview. It implies the US is always right. It’s as patently offensive to other parts of the world as their news coverage can be to us. It’s like history books written only by WASPY men. It doesn’t tell the whole story, and it seeks to glorify one nation above all others. Not that the US isn’t probably the best country in the world; just that it’s kind of obnoxious to constantly scream that at the other guys while you do stupid stuff like, oh, invade a country on totally false intelligence.) And I don’t think politicians should all have to wear American flag lapel pins. Like that’s how you know they’re really Americans. Silly.
Part of the reason I love campaigns is my love of history. I’m sure part of it is that. And part of it, I think, is to do with Aaron Sorkin. Pretty much everything he ever wrote (except “SportsNight” and in some ways including “Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip”) makes me love the political process, however belabored and convoluted and ridiculous it can be.
I also love to see how certain people kind of screw up and how others manage to capitalize on it, and nobody ever makes a face. I make a lot of faces without even knowing it. It’s a problem. I’m amazed that politicians are so good at never making faces. (Well, Pres. G.W. Bush and Sen. John McCain weren’t so good at hiding their faces.)
Strategery. I like the strategery. The Xs and Os.
But I really have no idea what the mystery element is that so attracts me to televised situations featuring six, seven, eight people standing behind podiums (how weird, to put that many podiums next to each other on a stage) and carping at each other while also pandering to each other. I recognize the annoying things about political campaigns and politicians. I totally get why so many people are so turned off by it. Politicians are annoying, lying liars who never really answer a question and are somehow universally trained on how never to say “yes” or “no” to a question. It’s fascinating how they do that. As I explained to Jack (who doesn’t vote despite being a really smart person, and has heard all of this before): I like to listen not only to what the candidates say, but to what they don’t say. I like to see exactly how they sidestep a question. Since Newt Gingrich went on a two-week Mediterranean cruise less than a month after announcing his candidacy and 16 top-level campaign staff members quit while he was gone, I want to see if and how he bounces back. Since Mitt Romney instituted a health care plan while governor of Massachusetts that is remarkably similar to President Obama’s national health care plan, I want to see how he tries to work around it. Rep. Ron Paul is practically his own cartoon; I want to watch him sort of implode while making a certain degree of sense and providing the refreshing straight answers that most politicians won’t give.
(At one point, though, he sort of went on a tangent about illegal immigration vis-a-vis the Catholic Church vis-a-vis the economy vis-a-vis homelessness, I think? At which point I pretty much declared he had lost the race and his train of thought.)
(And there were moments when I saw him looking around like he wasn’t quite sure where he was.)
I also like to watch the candidates listen to each other. That’s totally fun. Sometimes, even though they’re good about not making faces, one gets the sense that the other candidates are thinking, “Dude, you are totally nuts… how do you get away with this stuff?” when they listen to Rep. Paul. The one time somebody sort of made a face was when Mitt Romney was listening to Rep. Paul say that he wouldn’t wait for generals to tell him what to do in war, that if he was the Commander-in-Chief, he would tell the generals what to do instead of listening to what they thought. Romney did sorta look like he was thinking, “Ron, you are outside your mind” when Paul said that.
It’s kind of fun to go all Mean Girl on the moderator, too. Most of the time I get annoyed with them for not making the candidates answer the actual question. But I thought John King did a pretty good job at that. What I got a kick out of was his way of trying to keep the debate moving and make the candidates keep their answers short. He kept interjecting “rights” and “uh-huhs” and other nondescript grunts while the candidates spoke. This basically made it sound like the debate was being moderated by a seal. It just made John King look bad. It didn’t make the candidates look bad. At one point, I’m pretty sure Rick Santorum just totally blew him off.
“You have 30 seconds, Senator.”
“Yeah. Okay.” (Actual reply. Preceded by about a minute of discourse and followed by about another minute of it.)
There were, of course, some substantive issues on which I found the answers interesting. None of those was how to solve the problems of the economy. Basically, each candidate said they’re in favor of fixing the economy.
Good to know.
They didn’t really volunteer much else, though. Except businessman Herman Cain, who seems to have figured out, at least on that topic, how to answer the question with the specifics people want to hear. I’m pretty sure he’s deluded in his insistence that it would work, but still.
Ah, but here’s where the Republicans get me, cute as they are sometimes:
Every candidate thought the country should have kept the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Even though it resulted in more dishonorable discharges on the grounds of sexual orientation than there were before DADT was instituted during the Clinton administration. Even though when you’re in the middle of the heat of battle in war, you’re probably not thinking about what a nice ass the guy in front of you has. Even though we need men and women who want to serve, and we’re casting them off because we don’t like who they love. Did any of the Republicans running for president ever serve? Nope. Wait: Ron Paul did serve as a flight surgeon and then enlisted in the National Guard. Wonder if he listened to the generals then?
Give me a good reason not to like the repeal of a law that basically said, “If you don’t tell us we should think you’re disgusting, we won’t ask if we should think you’re disgusting.” And don’t say “commanding officers say it will disrupt the unit.” Because guess what? They don’t actually say that. Even if they did, I seem to remember a history lesson in which I learned that the country used to not allow black men to serve alongside whites because it would disrupt the unit. Apparently, we’ve gotten over that. Did we lose a war because of it?
None of the candidates believe that marriage can be anything other than between a man and a woman. Now, if that’s your belief, I get it. However, I think in most cases, humans can own the fact that religious or spiritual belief is what’s behind their insistence on that particular issue. Well, here’s the trick in government: we have a separation of church and state in this country. And I have never heard a politician explain coherently, but not religiously, why they refuse to allow for the possibility that same-sex oriented individuals might actually love and be able to share life with each other in a non-”gross” and genuine way. Their reasons for being against same-sex marriage are either “Because I said so” or “Because God said so.” Again: I’m willing to respect religious belief. I can’t tell you you’re wrong, because I won’t allow you to tell me I am. But when you want to lead a country that’s founded on a separation of church and state, you gotta give me a solid legal reason.
I’m pretty sure the solid legal reason is “it’s too damned expensive to all of a sudden start giving benefits to same-sex partners.” I get that reason. It’s probably true. It’s not necessarily right, or fair, to my way of thinking, but it’s probably true. So say it.
Of the seven candidates, I think I counted four who were in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Which is sort of fascinating, considering these are the same people who believe in the sovereignty of states’ rights. Two of them said marriage is a state issue (and it’s protected nationally, by the way, in the Full Faith and Credit clause; a marriage in one state must be recognized in another state… so I don’t quite get why states that don’t sanction same-sex marriage don’t have to recognize a same-sex marriage from a state that does allow them).
Rep. Michele Bachmann said she supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but she would not go into any of the states that currently allow it and seek to overturn their laws.
(But nobody made a face! Amazing!)
Featured image from ac360.blogs.cnn.com