Last Night's Debate: Bite Me, Wolf.

Now that we’ve more or less cleared up that "illegal immigrants with driver licenses" issue, the line I was pleading for one of the Democrats to throw back last night was, "Wolf, do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound? Do you ever get tired of this ‘gotcha’ crap?"

Something like that probably would have to come from Joe Biden, whose demeanor these days suggests a guy drifting well into, "Aw, f**k it" mode, since debate moderator after debate moderator has effectively reaffirmed the polls and consigned him, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich to side show acts.

In actual fact it was Kucinich who said to Blitzer, referring to the yes/no driver license bit, "I take exception to the way you framed that question." Thank you, Dennis. But you should have added, "What’s with the week-old beard thing, Wolf?"

My beef with Blitzer, who aside from the vaudevillians on Fox News, may be the most implausible "news man" on television, is that the guy not only takes the bait and over-works the meme — ad nauseum — but that he does it with such humorless, halting verbosity. Aaron Brown may not have had the Upper West Side pedigree or the promotable cover boy look of Anderson Cooper, but the guy could ask an intelligent question in less than five paragraphs, and maybe even flash a little wit.

Last night’s debate in Vegas — was irresistible viewing after two weeks — TWO SOLID WEEKS — of Blitzer, Hannity, O’Reilly et al — burying their bloody snouts in "Hillary’s Flop", the aforementioned immigrant driver license "issue" from the Oct. 28 debate. (And did anyone think of staging this debate in the Mandalay Bay sports book
instead of some anonymous field house? I mean, how about a slice of
Americana while we ridicule our candidates?)

The real issue of course was Clintonian parsing. Her Bubba-ness. A resumption of that famous, "A little something for everyone" act. The horror! Because, God help us, the worst thing that could ever happen to this country is to have more Clinton-style government. You know with balanced budgets, respect for the Constitution, no troops getting shot up in some medieval hellhole and … oh, christ, don’t get me started. So yeah, the point was parsing and the ticking clock on someone else, Obama or (my guy) Edwards, to bust a move with an effective attack on the little lady.

And its not like I don’t understand the ratings imperative of getting the blood on the ground early to hold viewer eyeballs. Come on! We’re putting on a show here, people! But after the cornball NBA-style introduction bit with the candidates half-trotting out from the wings, (I expected Blitzer to swat Biden on the ass and shout, "go get ’em, Stud."), the potential leaders of the free world had barely settled behind their podiums when Blitzer — with neither style nor wit — began angling for someone to lob a grenade Hillary’s way.

According to a Google search there are approximately 8,543,907 web sites currently analyzing last night’s debare performances. So I’ll spare you mine, other than to state the obvious.

1: Clinton learned her lesson from the Oct. 28 "flop" and was not only completely composed, she nailed Campbell Brown’s question about "playing with the boys". There isn’t a woman over 30 in this country who doesn’t understand — viscerally — Clinton’s point about "impediments".

2. Obama clearly doesn’t have a shiv side to his act, and can’t really compete with Clinton or Biden on foreign affairs savvy … not a good sign for "looking into the soul" of Vladimir Putin or the next Chinese trade minister.

3. Bill Richardson seems a likable sap, but he should probably head back to New Mexico before he totally screws a shot at another cabinet job.

4. My guy Edwards is still saying most of the right things — about the broken, corrupt system and how we get nowhere replacing "corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats" — but he’s getting out on thin ice with his obsessive Hillary-focus. Also John, you really didn’t answer the question about voting for all those free trade acts. That bothers me.

Lame and predictable as the driver license bit was, Blitzer jumped the shark completely with his other "gotcha" question, the one demanding to know — yes or no — whether candidates would put human rights ahead of the security of the country. Yeah Wolf, there’s an on/off dilemma. I mean, you’re either with us or against us, right? That act is working pretty well, isn’t?

The candidates may be tiring of this debate circus, and with the preening stage craft of Tim Russert last time and the ham-fisted pomposity of Blitzer this time you can understand their frustration, but if you’re a media/political junkie I have to concede it is great theater/farce.

On the 28th the Republicans — at long last, and after first refusing — will submit to a CNN/YouTube debate, (hosted by Cooper, possibly in a tight t-shirt). This holds the possibility of an average citizen asking any or all of the creationists, I mean candidates, how exactly the Grand Canyon was carved in six days, how far out from California you have to go before you fall off the edge of the Earth and whether they are prepared to protect America by personally strangling each and every suspected jihadi with their bare hands.