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It's possible, I suppose, that this debate is more important than all other debates combined, possibly including debates from other elections.
Whatever the level of importance in this debate is, I won't be watching, a stance that I sometimes take some flack from people for. But I won't be watching, for two reasons:
(A) There is no way that Mitt Romney can convince me to vote for him, as the only thing anyone can be sure he stands for is that he no longer stands for the things he used to stand for before running for President, and
(2) The debates, like the conventions and all other aspects of the political campaigns, are pre-packaged events that are extremely unlikely to lead to any information about the candidates.
You'll see what I mean -- but let's have some songs! About Presidents! And I'll try to relate them to the debates! But they're still cool!
1. President Garfield's Hornpipe,
The hornpipe is a kind of sailor's dance. According to Wikipedia, you did the hornpipe by doing
movements ... familiar to sailors of that time: "looking out to sea" with the right hand to the forehead, then the left, lurching as in heavy weather, and giving the occasional rhythmic tug to their breeches both fore and aft.Hornpipes were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, which is explainable by the fact that they had nothing else to do back then; weekend activities were limited to "do the hornpipe" or "die of consumption," and which would you choose?
While President Garfield's Hornpipe is by far my favorite hornpipe, there are also Thomas Jefferson's Hornpipe, and Lincoln's Hornpipe:
Speaking of Lincoln, did you know that unlike the freewheeling and supposedly entertaining Lincoln-Douglas debates, tonight's affair is a tightly-controlled showpiece governed by the official rules the campaigns negotiated?
Among those rules: The candidates may not use pre-made notes, but they may use blank paper to take notes on. And they have complete freedom to take notes on any kind of paper they like. Says rule 5(d):
"the candidates may take notes on the size, color, and type of blank paper each prefers and the type of pen or pencil that each prefers."
2. When The President Talks To God, Bright Eyes:
I'm not sure exactly what this song refers to, but I suspect it has to do with this October 2005 story from The Guardian:
George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month.
Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."
Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."
FYI: He didn't.
But at least 119,000 civilians have died from war-related violence, making the 4,488 dead US soldiers seem like a small number in comparison.
A small, but useless, number.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, is no less useless a war, but is safer: we only just hit 2,000 casualties there. But I'm sure eventually the Useless Afghan War will match its younger sibling in deaths. Just keep swimming!
Speaking of talking to God...
3. James K. Polk, They Might Be Giants.
Mitt Romney failed to electrify the electorate when his staff announced that his role model as a president was the first ever dark horse candidate, James K. Polk. The apparent idea was to convince people that, like Polk, Mitt would get things done without worrying about a second term.
But it's possible that Mitt is hiding the truth and that his other role model is George W (the W is for Worst President Ever) Bush. Like Bush, Mitt invokes the power of the Almighty when it's convenient for his political purposes, like when he criticized the Democrats for belatedly adding the word "God" to their platform by declaring that if he were put in charge, God would remain front and center in our politics, just where the Founding Fathers wanted it:
It should be noted that a religious-based assay of the Federalist papers found no explicit references to the idea that God was responsible for creating the United States.
"I will not take God out of the name of our platform...I will not take God off our coins and I will not take God out of my heart. We’re a nation that’s bestowed by God.”
4. A Long Long Time, Guy Forsyth.
In the debates, neither candidate is supposed to address the other with questions or proposed pledges or demand future or more debates; wouldn't you like to see Romney and Obama simply talk to each other for 90 minutes, with no questions and no idea what the guy is going to ask?
We Americans are freedom-loving people and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.
We went from Billy the Kid to Richard Nixon.
You won't get to.
Here's something to mull over, since you won't hear about it tonight or get any substance: Mitt Romney promises to reduce taxes across the board by 20%. That's mathematically impossible without substantial spending cuts that Romney refuses to be specific about making. But equally important is that Mitt's nonspecific growth plans, spelled out (sort of) in his "Five Point Plan," suggest that those tax reforms -- which, again, are impossible, mathematically, absent spending cuts -- would increase GDP by only 0.6%.
The GDP has grown by anywhere from 0.4% to 3.9% over the past two years, during which time there has been "uncertainty" (Mitt's term) over the future of tax rates, and during which time taxes have been higher (by 20%) than Mitt suggests they should be. Increasing that GDP by 0.6%, as Mitt suggests his (mathematically impossible)(nonspecific) tax cuts would do, would have caused GDP to range between 1.0% and 4.5% over the past two years.
During the 1970s, annual GDP growth averaged, from January 1970 to December 1979, 2.8%, with only two years in which GDP didn't grow (1974-1976). GDP growth hit a peak of nearly 8% in 1973. During that time, the top income tax bracket was seventy percent.
Wouldn't you like if someone asked Mitt Romney not only to be specific about his proposals but to explain why his tax-cutting proposals would spur only 4.4% growth in the GDP when 70% top marginal tax rates allowed for annual growth of as high as 8%?
Nobody will, which is why I don't watch the debates.
5. The Presidents, by Jonathan Coulton.
One other thing you won't hear asked tonight? Nobody will be able to ask the candidates "Sausage or pepperoni?" Pizza Hut had been going to offer a free pizza a week for 30 years (which was termed a "lifetime supply" of pizza by people who are unfamiliar with the concept of "24 Hours Of Pizza,") to anyone who asked the candidates at tonight's "Town Hall" debate the question: Sausage or pepperoni.
Such a question clearly divides America into just those two categories, ignoring the minorities who prefer mushrooms, or weirdos who think "cheese" is a kind of pizza.
Don't you find it annoying when "cheese" is listed as a potential topping on pizzas you order for delivery? Don't all pizzas have cheese on them? Isn't that one of the basic tenets of being a pizza? (Hard to define as it is, given that the question of what makes a pizza a pizza is a koan-like riddle). Whenever I see cheese listed as a potential ingredient, I get all nervous and think that I have to order cheese or I'll get just crust with some sausage sprinkled on it, and then I suspect that I am simply being charged extra for putting the regular amount of cheese on it, because how am I supposed to know if I got a pizza (including cheese) with extra cheese as a topping? I have no idea how much cheese goes on a pizza regularly, so no way to gauge how much extra cheese I'm getting. If any.
Also: All questions asked by "Town Hall" participants tonight were pre-selected by the moderator. Will we ever be told which questions were not selected, and why?
6. Peaches, The Presidents Of The United States Of America:
Not technically about presidents, I'm including this because this song is every bit as meaningful as the debates people get so excited about watching.
UPDATE: Having come back to look at comments, I've given some thought to that "Sausage or pepperoni?" question and the more I think of it, the more I'd like to see the candidates asked that, because I think their answers would speak volumes about them. What do you want to bet Romney would give a mealy-mouthed "I like both of them, to tell you the truth" answer? I bet you his entire fortune that's what he'd say. I bet he'd go on to say he likes all kinds of toppings and compare it to the "Melting Pot" of America even though nobody has done more to avoid America being a "melting pot" than the Mormons, unless it's the Republicans.
But what would Obama say, is more the question: We know he'd start with "Let me be clear..." but how would he finish up? Is Obama a sausage guy? Pepperoni guy? Is he man enough to pick one or the other? If he picked pepperoni would people say that was proof he sides with foreigners?
I've got to think about this.
But I think they should be asked the question, and the follow-up: Why?