What the Bush – Kerry debate caused you to miss

by on October 2nd, 2004

So President Bush and President-elect (I’m sorry, Senator) Kerry debated two nights ago. Excitement galore, I’m sure. Don’t get me wrong; I was glad, exultant even, to see the verbal broadside Mr. Kerry leveled against the president. But while every blogger wants to deposit their two cents on the ongoing fray over who won the debate (who gesticulated more? Whose facial expressions gave away insecurity? Who is fighting so vociferously?), I am frankly more worried about all the stories not making the front pages today because of the grand spectacle of the debate’s televised display of intellectual knowledge stomping across wrong-headed ideology.

For instance: the House managed to stave off the remaining remnants of the Federal Marriage Amendment, the bill which, if it had been successful, would have opened the Constitution to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. True, this bill had already been rejected out of hand by the Senate, but the story is notable more for the fiery rhetoric of the Republicans backing the bill rather than for its quick and painful death. One of the most prominent backers of the bill was Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) who vowed that the continued tolerance of those nasty sodomites will destroy all the moral fiber of America, and in his words, “this country will go down”.

Mr. DeLay is certainly in a position of authority to speak of how to destroy traditional morality: this week, the House Ethics Committee stung Tommy-boy with an investigation into his methods of currying favor to ensure passage of Medicare legislation. Allegations of improper lobbying are nothing new to DeLay, of course; but the fact that the ethics committee chose the lightest of all possible actions against the Texas GOP powerhouse displays Congress’ unwillingness to show even the slightest hint of backbone when disciplining one of the most thoroughly corrupt members of their club.

On the foreign relations front, a major push by American military and Iraqi security forces to crush insurgents in Samarra and Fajullah was met with only mild enthusiasm by the American press. Even though the battles of the last few days cost three American soldiers their lives (not to mention the estimated one hundred dead insurgents), the fighting barely made front pages in America, while at the same time the BBC is quoting an American military analyst who says that our piecemeal strategy in Iraq is going nowhere. Even the killing of scores of innocent children by a series of bomb blasts on Thursday barely raised an eyebrow as thousands of amateur political thinkers readied their pre-debate wits for online battles of slanted polls, freepers and social minutia.

Oh, there are plenty of other things we Americans could talk about. We could talk about the upcoming agreement of the administration to an immigration policy that could allow those seeking refuge within our borders to countries where they would more likely to endure torture under interrogation. There’s always the economy, stupid—how about oil creeping past $50 a barrel without a screech of horror from the suburbs? And I heard a rumor that in Africa, there are more than 60,000 dead in Darfur from the government-sponsored genocide that has been ongoing for the past few months. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

But none of that matters if the handful of conglomerates that control the American television media has their way. They’ve not spent the summer priming the citizenry for the debates to have their thunder stolen by the inconsequential accidents of real life. Each of the networks stuffed their studios with politicos from both ends of the spectrum and allowed them to spin away. Never too careful to form opinions themselves, they let their guests form public opinion without any filter between their froth mouths and the public. Instead of reason, we saw Rudy Giuliani spewing away against Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. In the face of a real debate, Tom Brokaw shucked and jived for his paycheck, purporting that the president’s mealy-mouthed verbal gaffes would resonate with ‘average Americans’ who aren’t so hot at verbal discourse themselves.

Look at the birdy, America. And hope that the flash from bulb doesn’t blind you for too long.

Eric A. Webb