Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back to Debate 101

Well, the debate reviews are in. Fred Thompson knew who the Prime Minister of Canada is, Mitt Romney seems to feel consulting lawyers on national policy is the best way to run the government, and Rudy Giuliani loves Yankee manager Joe Torre. John McCain had the best line of the day. When asked the impertinent question, would he support the Republican candidate, he responded: "Of course, I would support me."
Boring stuff, though, in the main, with everyone doing his level best not to look or sound bad, but no one saying anything of note. There hasn't been an interesting candidate or presidential debate since 2004, when George Bush had that strange bulge in his back which many people (including a prominent NASA scientist) thought was a transmitter, but which the White House tried to claim was merely "a wrinkle in the fabric."
Given the general meaninglessness of these affairs, the extraordinary triumph of style over substance, it's my idea that debates should be staged like those described by Karen Houppert in a recent article in Washington Post Magazine. Called kritik, or performance debate, debaters use "rap, hip-hop, poetry and performance art to help make their points accessible and moving. ("Other cats spit raps about gats and staying strapped because that's all they got / focus on what's not / well, it's times like this / somebody should speak up and say it's ludicrous," high school senior Damien Poole rapped to the Baltimore judges during a debate about violence at a tournament in April.) These rebel debaters are likely to go off topic or "kritik" the topic, rules or nature of debate itself."
Wouldn't it be much more fun to see Rudy and Mitt (or Hillary and Obama, for that matter) doing spins on the floor, laughing, getting in the faces of their opponents, or yelling at the moderators? Also, high school and college debaters are only assigned what side of a given topic they need to argue a few minute before they enter the debate room. So they are forced to know the pros and cons of every issue.
It's too much to hope for, I know....but I still hope for it anyway. As a Dirty Tricks historian, I know that nothing is too outlandish when it comes to presidential politics.

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