Sunday, December 02, 2007

Schmoopsy for President

So last night I watched the latest of the roughly 1,291 presidential debates that will take place before we actually elect somebody to run against somebody else, thereby subjecting the American people to approximately 3,598 more debates. And that’s providing Al Gore doesn’t change his mind.
This debate, featuring eight Republican contenders, including two guys who I didn’t even know were running, was co-sponsored by CNN and YouTube. That marriage makes about as much sense as the Pope co-sponsoring a mass with Britney Spears. CNN calls itself “the most trusted name in news.” YouTube’s slogan is “Broadcast Yourself” but it might as well be “broadcasting unemployed people who own video cameras.” Most of the video submissions from YouTube are from people who don’t get CNN. Oh sure, they receive it on their cable dial but they still don’t get it.
The debate was hosted by Andersen Cooper, who seems to have replaced all the other CNN anchors by himself. Personally, I think there are three Andersen Coopers because how else could he be in so many places at one time? Look, there’s Andersen interviewing front line troops in Iraq! Five minutes later Andersen Cooper is LIVE in New Orleans. The next minute he’s yukking it up with Jerry Seinfeld in Las Vegas. Get the point?
Don’t get me wrong. I like the guy. I think I like him because he’s the son of Gloria Vanderbilt yet he still goes to work every day and earns a paycheck like the rest of us. I’m sure Andersen Cooper could have retired when he was about six months old if he chose to.
However, Andersen Cooper Vanderbilt whatever really needs to decide whether he wants to be a comedian or a news anchor. And, as NBC’s Brian Williams proved during his hosting stint on Saturday Night Live last month, you can’t do both.
Yet there was Cooper, onstage in St. Petersburg, Florida, facing the following presidential hopefuls: Rudolph “9-11 is my middle name” Guliani, Mitt “Brylcreem Poster Boy” Romney, “ Fred “I’m a better actor than Ronald Reagan” Thompson, “ John “Full Metal Jacket” McCain,” Mike, “delicious shake for breakfast, one for lunch and a sensible dinner” Huckabee, Ron “I’d be honored to be your next on-line President,” Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter. I don’t have nicknames for the last two guys because, as I previously mentioned, I didn’t know they were running.
The eight stood there, smiling nervously, while Andersen Cooper proudly mentioned that over 5,000 questions had been submitted via YouTube. Cooper made reference to some of the weird submissions that did not make the cut…and then promptly showed them. The candidates continued to smile as they watched questions from an animated snowman, a UFO, the “ghost” of Richard Nixon and a cartoon dog named “Schmoopsy.” Fred Thompson probably co-starred in pilots with all of them.
Finally, Cooper called the debate to order. Actually, a guy named Chris Nandor or “Pudgenet” as he calls himself on YouTube, called the debate to order by playing an original song that supposedly introduced all the candidates. Included were brilliant lyrics like, Rudy’s leading all the polls but can he win the base? Mitt changed on abortion; history he can’t erase.” As each candidate heard his name mentioned, the fake smile grew even more fake.
Once Nandor’s 15 minutes of fame ended, the first YouTube question was asked. It came from “ejxit,” a 59-year-old New Yorker whose video looked as if it were shot in a basement around 4:30 am. The question was for Guliani and accused him of providing illegal immigrants with a “sanctuary city” in New York while he was mayor. Guliani denied it, Romney refuted the denial and finally the debate started to take on the appearance of an actual debate.
As the questions continued, I started wondering whether the stars of this “debate” were the candidates themselves or the YouTube interrogators. One guy asked a question about gun control while cocking a weapon that looked like it could wipe out a small country. He was promptly scolded by Congressman Hunter for handling the gun the wrong way. Hunter, by the way, is a gun owner and believes strongly in the Second Amendment.
A rather scary looking gentleman held up the Bible and asked, “do you believe EVERY word of this book? And I mean specifically every word of this book I am holding in my hand? Do you believe this book?”
The question was so repetitive that it prompted Cooper to switch to comedian mode and quip, “I think we got his question.”
My favorite part of the debate was when the questioners magically appeared in the audience. The singer Nandor was present as was openly gay retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who asked, not surprisingly, about gays in the military. After two candidates had answered the question, Cooper invited Kerr into the debate by asking him if he felt his question was answered. Suddenly there were nine candidates vying for airtime. I thought the whole thing was weird; it reminded me of the Jerry Springer episodes where the betrayed spouse is backstage and appears after her ex admits to about six affairs. Heck, Guliani didn’t have that many!
I finally turned off the TV, no closer to making a decision when I go to the polls in February. But the ghost of Richard Nixon is looking pretty good.

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