Mark Palermo

2004 McDebates

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives


Something was dreadfully wrong with the presidential McDebates of 2004. And it was something even more fundamentally flawed than these two uninspiring presidential candidates. Even George Bush Sr. criticized the debate forum saying, “It’s too much show business and too much prompting, too much artificiality, and not really debates.”

I thought back to the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960. What a difference from then to now. The 1960 debates were a discourse elevated by reason, pragmatism and adult sensibility. Both men were aggressive and articulate debaters; but maybe because people then felt more like participants in the democratic process than spectators, the debates were awe inspiring in stature, resembling the Lincoln-Douglas debates more than the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards.

Not surprisingly, the McDebates of 2004 were proscribed by rules set forth by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a group financed by big-moneyed lobbies, ensuring that apart from a few jabs about Iraq, very little would be discussed in depth. Nothing to embarrass the candidates. No uncontrolled dialogue, the eruption of which might disturb the quiescence and apathy of the American public.

Moreover, CPD rules say neither candidate can debate each other outside of the “official debate” for the rest of the campaign. The CPD further  mandates that the audience be pre-screened and “observe in silence.” Two minutes to develop topics. And no rebuttals, follow-up questions, or candidate-to-candidate questions. And rules governing third party candidates are so exclusionary that even Ross Perot, who received 19 million votes in 1992, would not have qualified. Everything necessary, in other words, to produce a filtered, standardized and homogenized product. No wonder the venerable Walter Cronkite called it an “unconscionable fraud.”

If  I could dictate the guidelines for the debates. I would fill the audience with passionate students, working people, farmers, small business owners and feisty elders. I would invite all candidates to participate, not just the “officially designated” ones.  Nobody would be informed ahead of time of the questions. (Does anybody give you the questions before you go to a job interview?) There would be twelve debates and each would last three hours. (the  Weld-Kerry senatorial debates featured eight televised debates) Of course this would stress the candidates, but it would give us a window on how they behave under pressure, and just as important, who they really are under their “masks.”

All questions would be on the table. Here’s just a few you might hear: First: the family farm- why did the government  bail out banks in the 1990’s and refuse to help family farms or independent gas stations before they went under? And  why are tax advantages given to businesses who outsource to China, but none for businesses who remain here? Maybe a few questions about the World Bank, or about our long-standing practice of propping up anti-democratic regimes? And then there’s foreign aid. Why are 40 million people without health insurance while we give away billions? How about the drugging of America’s children with over 5 million kids on anti depressants, many of them forced to ingest these drugs by schools and the pharmaceutical-social work-psychiatry industry. And with 36 hours of debate time, we can learn in depth what each candidate feels about the prison industry, gay marriage, social security, immigration, Enron, multiculturalism, Zionism, NAFTA, globalism, affirmative action, Gulf War Illness, the use of  uranium ammunition, Saudi Arabia- and more. We’d have a hell of a time. Everybody in the nation would be tuned in. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: unlike the McDebates, nobody would be forced to remain silent. And to remove inhibitions, beer, wine, and rum (in honor of the founding fathers) would be served to the audience- open bar. And because the founding fathers knew that real democracy is hard and messy work, security would be provided; not to oversee and enforce silence, but to break up fistfights when the audience’s passions overflow. Moderator for the debate would be Judge Judy.

The 2004 McDebates were a scam. They show how far government has gotten from the “we the people,” who are going to awaken someday and remember that the government as conceived by the founding fathers was to serve the people, not the other way around. Next time, the CPD should do away with the embarrassing pretense of their McDebates and just cancel them altogether. Then the networks can televise something more relevant and less pretentious, like reruns of the Three Stooges.

John Adams warned us when he said, “Gentlemen, you have a republic-IF you can keep it.”