Friday, October 3, 2008

Debate Night in Canada Post Mortem

Well, I was right. This was no Hamilton vs. Jefferson debate for the ages. But I was also disappointed. It wasn't even Don Cherry vs. Ron McLean (with a tripartite Greek chorus). So not even my lowest, most modest, expectations were met.

Sure, there was a mini-wedgie right off the bat, when the Prime Minister turned to Mr. Dion in his opening remarks and told him that he had panicked the previous evening by changing course and introducing a new economic policy during the French-language debate. But, I was more looking for a full underwear-up-the-ass-crack kind of wedgie. It didn't happen. And sure, Stephane Dion actually looked like he was about to cry at least a couple of times (perhaps that's his TV-sincere look). And sure, Smilin' Jack Layton got in a zinger of his own at the PM's expense ('where's your policy? maybe you're hiding it in your sweater' -- heh), and came closest to administering a full-blown wedgie when he drew attention to Dion's abysmal performance as Leader of the Opposition and asked pointedly why on earth he would run for Prime Minister. And sure, Gilles Duceppe was loud, rude, arrogant, abrasive, and ... what the hell was he doing there anyway? And sure, Elizabeth May was finger-nails-scraping-against-a-blackboard irritating.

And that was just the first half hour.

After that, I turned to the Palin-Biden debate, and that's where I stayed. Only when that debate ended did I return to the Canadian "round table" farce to hear the closing remarks.

Why the switch? Why did I vote with my remote?

It's simple really. The Canadian debate wasn't a debate at all. It was a sophomoric version of a Grad School seminar class. The only discernible structure (and the only discernible discipline) was the order of topics and the time allotted to each one. Other than trying to make sure that everyone got a chance to speak, there was little that Steve Paikin could do to control the proceedings. And he's an excellent moderator. Imagine what a disaster this would have been with a lesser mortal at the helm.

In previous years, election debates have required opposition pretenders to debate not only the Prime Minister but also each other. For some reason that wasn't happening this year. Instead, the consortium of broadcasters went with the "four wolves and a caribou" format.

Okay, try picking a "winner" in a "four wolves and a caribou" debate. Well, in order for any of the opposition wolves to claim victory outright ... well that would require a clean kill. An occasional scratch or bite isn't going to do it. Why not? Because four wolves are supposed to be able to take down a caribou in under two hours. So, what does it take for the caribou to win? Simple. Fend off the attack of the four wolves and still be standing after two hours, leaving the wolves still ravenous, hungry, and unsatiated. I watched the beginning. I watched the end. I don't think I needed to see the middle. The caribou was still standing at the end, with only a few scratches and bruises to show for the scrap.

Good for the caribou. Shame on the wolves. And shame on the consortium of broadcasters for doing a disservice to Canadian voters with this farcical sham of a debate format.

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