People have been pleasantly surprised that John Kerry came out ahead in the first of three presidential debates scheduled for the pre-coup election period. It was held in Coral Gables, Florida. “Statesmanlike”, they called Kerry, and “presidential”. He came off as more intelligent and articulate than George W. Bush, the quasi-incumbent. I despair. Three pounds of goat earwax would come off as more intelligent and articulate than George W. Bush. Kerry is, I maintain, our hope for the American future. This means our future is in the hands of a man who could barely defeat a sentient cabbage in a battle of wits. Still, it could have been worse. There could have been a hurricane.
Kerry did well in the debate, although not impressively well. Enough well so that even his opponents in the news media had to admit he did better than Bush, which would be great news except doing better than Bush is largely a matter of not repeating the same three sentences over and over for ninety minutes. My brother works as an orderly in a refuge for the mentally catastrophic. Sometimes he calls me up and puts one of his mental minions on the phone, just in case I was lonely or something. For minutes on end I’ll be talking to someone for whom repeating the words ‘lemon Jello’ over and over under his breath qualifies as witty repartee. What worries me is if I handed the phone to John Kerry (say he was here at the house doing laundry) he would have a hard time keeping up with the banter on the other end.
Not to overstate the case, though. The debate format is tough. It’s two men that hate each other trying to have an argument during a simultaneous job interview with a third man who knows one of the two men will eventually have the power to get him deported. And there’s a certain amount of pressure involved, given that the very fate of international democracy hangs in the balance and tens of millions of angry mouth-breathing gun enthusiasts are watching. Imagine being one of two finalists in the national spelling bee, and knowing the loser will be taken outside, stripped naked, coated in bread crumbs, and fed to jackals on world television. Also imagine you know your opponent cheats. Taken in this light, you can see why Kerry might, metaphorically speaking, appear to be laboring over simple words such as ‘cheese’ even though we know he can normally spell two-bit words such as ‘eleemosynary’ and he went to a Swiss boarding school where they had cheese all the time. Then again, in Switzerland cheese is ‘Kase’. Maybe he did better than I think. In any case, While Kerry was laboriously but accurately spelling ‘cheese’, Bush was refusing to spell anything but ‘C-A-T’, no matter what words he was given. And the pundits were enthusing over how consistently he managed to spell it.
Cheese is a longer word than cat, so I’m voting for Kerry. I voted for Nader last time. This time, I confess the debate wasn’t what swayed my decision to go Democrat: Jesus Christ himself personally dropped by my house along with three burly archangels and explained the consequences of voting for the fringe this time around. He described a worst-case scenario in which my eternal soul figured prominently. Also for three hours Manischewitz ran out of the water dispenser in our fridge door. Like him or not, it’s Kerry or damnation. The choice between Kerry and Bush (in my terms, not the Savior’s) is the choice between a quart of asparagus pee and a trillion gallons of hydrochloric acid. It’s an unpalatable but easy choice to make, so far as I can tell. The debate served to underline the point: Kerry isn’t thrilling, but at least he’s not fatal. Swing voters don’t seem to understand that to swing, you must first hang.
So although I’d rather vote for someone more outré in my usual spirit of quirky eclecticism, I’m voting for Kerry, because Jesus told me so. But you don’t need a personal visit from the Son of God to figure it out. Watch the next debate carefully, and observe how one candidate is talking in a rudimentary but coherent way about what he would do with the job of president, and the other candidate is repeating the words ‘lemon Jello’ over and over and over again. Kerry is terrible, but he could be worse. Bush is just worse. And a disgrace to primates. That’s what I got out of the first debate, if we can call it that. It was more like two debates at the same time: Bush against Kerry, and Kerry against Kerry. The real feat in this debate is that Kerry won both of them.
BEN TRIPP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His book, ‘Square In The Nuts’, has been held up at the printers by thugs but will be released as soon as hostage negotiations conclude.
See also www.cafeshops.com/tarantulabros.