Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016--Debate Preview

When I saw that the cable news networks were planning to begin their debate coverage today at 4:00 p.m., five hours before the actual debate commences, I wondered out loud to Rona why they would be doing something this seemingly ridiculous, "How much is there to talk about?"

"Easy," Rona said, "They are expecting at least 100 million to tune in--an all time record, nearly half of the country's adult population--and that means big-bucks ratings. These are Super Bowl numbers and it's all because of him."

"So it's all about ratings and money?"

"What else is new. Some companies are actually making special TV commercials, including the Mexican beer Tecate, which will make fun of Donald's wall."

"Amazing, though not really. But as always with these kinds of mega-political events--the State of the Union or the Inaugural address--the media folks spend hours in advance speculating about what will be said. In the case of the debate, I'm sure they'll talk endlessly about who will get under their opponent's skin first and who will make the biggest blunder. Like poor Gerry Ford who stepped in it when he said in 1976 that the Eastern European countries are free and not captive Soviet nations."

"When he did that, the moderator, I think he was from the New York Times, was so stunned that he said, 'I'm sorry, what?'"

"So," I said, "here's my preview."

"Spare me," Rona said, but did not leave the room.

"First of all, can it be true that 100 million will watch? How could that be since at most a few thousand voters are genuinely undecided. Do you think at this point there are more than that who haven't made up their minds? In spite of what most polls report about them. Like Trump said, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and none of his supporters would as a result vote for Hillary."

"If he did, considering what's going on in the country, his numbers would probably go up."

"This then means," I persisted, "that almost everyone who'll watch will be doing so for entertainment reasons. Since both candidates are thin-skinned, there's a good chance that there will be fireworks and the real possibility that someone will say something politically calamitous. It doesn't get to be more fun or high stakes than that. Better than House of Cards. More like Veep."

"I think that not since Kennedy/Nixon in 1960 will a first debate be so decisive. Yesterday morning the Washington Post poll had Clinton and Trump in a statistical dead heat. So tonight could be even more conclusive than what happens on Election Day."

"I assume you mean that after tonight the results will in effect be determined."

"That could be. So millions with their minds already made up can say they were 'there' when the tide turned decisively in one direction or another."

"But getting back to the entertainment issue. Did you see that Trump invited Bill Clinton's former mistress, Jennifer Flowers to be his guest and sit in the front row? Maybe just a few seats away from Bill himself?"

"She tweeted that she plans to be there."

"How about Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky?"

Getting into the theatrics of the debate, Rona said, "To retaliate Hillary could invite all of Trump's former wives and girlfriends."

"Between Bill and Donald that could fill up the entire first row."

"If Flowers or any of the others show up, do you think the moderator, Lester Holt, will ask about that? It would take great restraint on his part not to do so since he's a newbie to presidential debate moderation and could probably benefit from the notoriety like Megyn Kelly did."

"Or will the NBC folks put Jennifer on camera? How about a split screen of her with Bill?"

"Anticipating that alone," Rona said, "would keep me watching for the full 90 minutes."

"Really?" I said, "I thought you might not want to watch at all. You've been so consistent in feeling disgusted with the whole process."

"But it's perversely brilliant," Rona said. "I hate it but I get it. Our politics has been morphing into an ongoing reality TV show. Obviously, with Trump propelled into public consciousness from that world. So it's not unexpected that he would have Jennifer Flowers there. Jerry Springer would if he were staging it. As for sure so would the Kardashians."

"The full apotheosis of this debasement of our political culture--not that even with the Founders it's been that high (Jefferson and Adams, for example, and Hamilton and Burr among others went at it in hurtful personal, even deadly ways)--the full flowering of politics as schadenfreudian fun--forgive the pun--would be if Trump somehow managed to get elected. I suspect that a majority of the voting population might very well be ready for that. Just as Oprah helped pave the way for Obama, Springer and his spawn may wind up doing the same thing for Trump."

Signaling that she had had enough, Rona sighed, "Save us. Please."

"Amen," I said.

"But I admit it--I'll be watching."

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