Only Planet

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Master Debaters

Will you be watching the Vice-Presidential “debate” tonight? We will, though I’m not sure that it should be called a debate. See, for four years I participated on my high school’s speech team, in debate and extemporaneous speech. Debate was an event where my partner and I would research a topic (in the pre-internet world) and make reasoned contentions to win talking points. Usually our topics were something of national importance, like the death penalty, or abortion rights or prayer in school. Moments before our competition we would find out which side we had to argue, so we always had to be prepared to argue either side. In competition we would unleash our arguments, not like junk yard pit bulls (we did wear lipstick) but more like tactical surgeons.

In extemporaneous speech I had to be well-read on dozens of current issues (preparation usually included reading Time, US News & Newsweek every week—again the pre-internet world) and then half hour before the event, write and give a cohesive and fairly comprehensive speech about anything from—using current examples—the currency crash in Zimbabwe, to the skirmish in post-soviet Georgia.

Even in law school I participated on the Federal Indian Law Moot court team where over the course of a semester my partner and I prepared a case arguing pro/con about some sort of fuel tax on Federal Indian Land.

All of these events supposed two fairly evenly-matched opponents. Both teams would have a similar amount of time to prepare, similar world experience and maturity.

But tonight, well it will be a different kind of match. After the Couric and Gibson interviews, expectation of Palin are so low, that unless she enters the forum scratching her butt, and dragging her knuckles on the ground, pundits will call her performance a success. Biden on the other hand, has a more difficult job. If we weren’t living in Bizzaro-land we would declare him the victor if he spoke strongly, backed with all of his experience, knowledge and reasoning powers. Hell, he could even lick his finger, sizzle it on his butt, and do a happy dance and we could just chalk it up to be the most entertaining political spectacle in history. But since we are in the United States of Stupid, he’s going to have to balance on a fine line between displaying expertise, without looking like an ass because he knows Hamas has nothing to do with Iran. And avoid being called pompous because he understands that knowing the cause of global warming is the best way to fix the problem.

What would help me during tonight's info-tainment is if they had those little bubbles that come up on some VH-1 shows where you listen to what the people are saying, but actual facts appear in writing. Or something like Stephen Colbert’s The Word, just give us some editorial guidance.

It could be done by Fact Check, or any other neutral organization. But wouldn’t that be helpful?

In lieu of that sort of help, I'm offering a link to your own personal Palin Bingo card, courtesy of my friend Peg. At least it might help alleviate some of the head-banging frustration that has become a symptom after watching Palin's recent performances and allow someone be a clear-cut winner when the debate is over.


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