Hey, Undecideds, don't turn to debates for reality television

September 30, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

NOW THAT THE first presidential debate between George Bush and John Kerry is here, I'd like to discuss this mysterious segment of the voting bloc we keep hearing so much about.

Yes, I'd like to address you, the undecided voter.

First of all, we keep hearing different numbers about how many of you are out there.

Some surveys say you're 10 percent of the electorate. Others say you're more like 20 percent.

The fact is, no one seems to know for sure - not the Zogby Poll, not the Gallup Poll, no one.

To the pollsters, you people are like, I don't know, Mormon polygamists or something. They know you exist. They just can't get a good handle on you.

But that's not what I want to discuss with you undecided voters today. No, what I want to discuss is this: What in God's name is wrong with you people?

Why is it taking you so long to decide who to vote for?

I mean, come on, this campaign has dragged on for months and months and months.

Both candidates have been flapping their gums about the issues in the newspapers, on the nightly news, on radio talk shows, in Internet chat rooms.

How could you not have enough information by now to make an informed choice?

Are you kidding? There's enough info out there on both candidates to fill the Encyclopedia Britannica.

So what are you undecided voters waiting for?

A sign from God? Are you waiting for statues to weep? For rivers to run red with blood?

Or are you waiting to flip a coin on Election Day?

Please, whatever you do, don't tell me you've been waiting for the debates to make up your mind about a candidate.

Because what you're going to see tonight from Florida may be a lot of things, but it sure ain't a real debate.

A debate is supposed to be a spontaneous discussion of ideas, isn't it?

But all you'll see tonight is another dreary recitation of rehearsed remarks from each candidate, with all the spontaneity beaten out of them with sticks.

This time around, there are all these ridiculous ground rules for both candidates, too.

Don't move from behind the podium. Don't take notes. Don't acknowledge anyone in the audience.

Don't do this, don't do that, stand here, look this way ... Hairspray on Broadway is less choreographed than this.

Then there's my personal favorite ground rule: The candidates may not ask each other direct questions, but may ask rhetorical questions.

Say what?

You mean you can't say something like: "You little weasel, why are you lying to the American people?"

You have to say: "Perhaps my lying little weasel of an opponent would care to explain his misguided stance to the American people?"

What kind of debate is that?

It sure isn't a debate I'm interested in seeing.

Look, people are supposed to get passionate and shout at each other during a debate.

Me, I'd like nothing better than to see one of these candidates go bug-eyed at some point tonight and yell: "OK, that did it!" and lunge at the other guy.

I mean, I'm all for reasoned discourse.

But let's have some fervor in the debate, too.

Otherwise, what you've got are two store mannequins staring at each other for 90 minutes, blankly reciting the same scripted junk we've heard for months.

But back to you undecided voters out there.

If you have been waiting for the debates to make up your mind, then just what's your deciding factor here?

Will you vote for the candidate who's the most glib?

Is that what we're looking for here? The next debater in chief instead of the next commander in chief?

Or are you waiting for one of the candidates to blow it?

Are you waiting for Bush to say: "OK, you want to know the real reason we invaded Iraq? Because I was bored. One day Rumsfeld and Cheney and I were sitting around the Oval Office, and there was nothing going on, and we thought: `Let's go bomb Iraq, just to mess with Saddam's head.'"

Is that what you're waiting for?

Or are you waiting for Kerry to say something like: "Y'know, looking back on it, Ho Chi Minh wasn't such a bad guy after all. And Jane Fonda ... what a sweet gal."

I wouldn't hold my breath.

Something like that would involve the candidates veering from the script.

Which is definitely not in the ground rules.

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