The Guilfoile-Warner Papers

Oct 8

God Bless technology! Number of times that Sarah Palin used the word "maverick" in her debate with Joe Biden: 15. Number of times John McCain used the word in last night's debate: 0. Person we can most likely thank for putting the word to rest: Tina Fey. In her debate, Palin had utilized "maverick" as a sort of Smurf language, dropping M-bombs as just about every part of speech. Fey managed to latch on to the tic and beat her over the head with it, effectively taking what McCain had seen as his chief calling card and turning it into a punchline. I wonder if he can even say it with a straight face at this point. Call this illustration number 1,347.595 of the way technology has changed the way elections run. Sure, in past years Saturday Night Live would do their obligatory candidate skewering, but the damage was contained to the audience that watched the show in real time. Thanks to online videos, those of us who are well into R.E.M. sleep by that time can watch (and disseminate) the debate sketch at our leisure. There's a reason why it's called "show and tell," rather than just "tell," the showing works. (If anyone doesn't believe me, read this statement: Joe Theismann suffered a career ending injury when he was sacked by Lawrence Taylor.) And now, check out the video. (Be sure to wait for the reverse angle.) But perhaps more important than the reach of video in the Internet Age is the speed it can be disseminated. McCain's strange "that one" gaffe was up on YouTube before the debate ended:
Another upside of the new technology is the post-debate "snap polls," which Obama won handily. Knowing these polls are lurking mere minutes away effectively shames the David Gergen's of the world from spewing out of their assholes because they know that some actual data could make liars of them. Before, they had a couple of days of open field to disseminate their wisdom. Now we've got a representative sample of Americans coming at them like Lawrence Taylor on a blitz. Last night I was watching Anderson Cooper's gang post-debate and even the republicans, Bill Bennett and Alex Castellanos called the debate (correctly) for Obama because for egomaniacs like these guys, not wanting to look foolish trumps their desire to carry water for McCain. (In order to avoid this sort of cognitive dissonance, Fox embraced a "non-scientific" text poll which had McCain as the debate winner by a margin of 86-12.") However, there's one area where we could be using technology to our advantage and we don't, and that's in assisting the debate monitors. As we all know, during a debate a candidate can pretty much lie with impunity without penalty because most of us in the viewing audience aren't well-enough informed to sort the gold from the bullshit. For one small example last night, let's examine this quote from McCain when asked about the potential threat of Russia: "Now, long ago, I warned about Vladimir Putin. I said I looked into his eyes and saw three letters, a K, a G, and a B." Never mind that it's a lame joke that he used in the last debate, as our friends at Think Progress point out, it's a demonstrable lie, since in 2001 when asked about President Bush's first trip to Europe and Russia as Commander-in-Chief, McCain graded Bush's soul-gaze into Putin's eyes, an "A." A small point for sure, but one that punctures the core of McCain's message, his experience and alleged prescience when it comes to world affairs. I can just imagine a Brokaw following up with, "Actually, Senator, in 2001 you declared President Bush's meeting with Vladimir Putin a success." If something like this were to happen I can just see McCain--worn out body and all--trying to recreate Lawrence Taylor's takedown of Theismann on Brokaw in response.

TMN contributing writer John Warner’s first novel, The Funny Man was recently published by Soho Press. He teaches at the College of Charleston and is co-color commentator for The Morning News Tournament of Books. More by John Warner

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