Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Best Of The Drifts - 2008 Perry Debates

Originally published October 9, 2008

Clouds And Clods In Perry

Dark skies roiled around the Georgia National Fairgrounds as the candidates for U.S. Senate and the 8th Congressional district gathered at the stage of the Reaves Arena in Perry, Ga. Perhaps, Mr. Henry asked a favor of his new landlord, for the heavens indeed opened, threatening to drown out the lows of the manure slingers who temporarily infested the hallowed home the legendary cattleman built for his beloved livestock.

Despite the exhortations of the spare but raucous audience, the blather on the stage never matched the fury of the rain lashing the roof. It seemed every time a politician opened his mouth the whipping of water on the ceiling crescendoed, causing the occasional nervous eye to stare heavenward - possibly wondering where all would run if the thing peeled off like a potato skin.

As with most debates, there were no game changers. No particularly harsh gaffes. No soul stirring moments of inspiration. No pol succumbing to the pressure, stripping off every stitch of clothing and prancing around like a chicken. Not much fun at all.

Instead, with a weird format which limited answers to a couple of minutes and 30 second rebuttals at the discretion of the moderator, the entire affair was mostly limited to sound bite pablum found in commericials.

In the big daddy event of the Senate race, Democrat Jim Martin was more confident and forceful than expected - except when he lapsed into wonkish professor mode, droning on about billions and trillions.

Incumbent Senator Saxby Chambliss talked about winning wars, cutting taxes and saving us all from the liberal menace - except when he stumbled around on the immigration question and was met with an uncomfortable silence from his previously rabid supporters.

Libertarian Allen Buckley referred to his website about 243 times and appeared genuinely rattled any time the restless audience began burbling with either approval or disapproval. At certain points, if someone had whispered "boo", he might have just darted for the wings.

The congressional candidates were mercifully spared a full hour of the nonsense and spent a mere 30 minutes warbling mostly about "the vote".

Incumbent Democrat Jim Marshall mentioned a letter he received from the AARP, one of the debate sponsors, about half a dozen times in the hope that the powerful blue hair lobby would provide the karmic bailout bandaid he so desperately needed.

Republican challenger Rick Goddard spewed about better handling of the taxpayers money and his knowledge that 90% of Georgia opposed the bailout. Of course he had this handy fact because before making a public statement on the hot potato of the day, he had polled extensively - including inadvertently quizzing Jim Marshall's campaign office.

Somewhere in the middle, Goddard said "this is a strong market" and Marshall said he "hadn't paid much attention to either (Presidential) candidate's plans for Iraq". Despite the strength of these two gaffes, no blood ran because after 90 minutes of beating rain and bleating politicians, few still cared.

Afterward, when the hands were shook and signs were stowed, all waited in the lobby for the rain to cease lashing the fairground. There would be no quick aboslution for these political desperadoes who had invaded this innocent land of funnel cakes and candy apples.

Eventually the storm waned and a bright moon emerged from the clouds. Mr. Henry must have decided to once again rest easy - for tomorrow, the cleaner parade of cows and pigs would return to his arena.

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