In the old days when watching television involved trying to decide what sitcom to watch on which of the only three networks the entertainment Gods saw fit to make available to us mortals, “channel surfing” meant heaving yourself up from the easy chair, walking over to the TV and manually twisting a knob that changed the station.
A “knob.” How quaint. The knob actually had the numbers 1-13 of which perhaps 5 channels actually featured a network. And one of those stations – PBS - wasn’t really considered TV anyway. No laugh track, nobody was ever gunned down, and nothing ever blew up. What was it good for, anyway?
Then came the TV remote control and life as we know it on earth was altered irrevocably. At first, men were able to drive their wives to homicide by switching back and forth between three channels – an admittedly futile and annoying practice since one was apt to confuse the plot lines of the shows you were trying to watch. Hence, it became difficult to remember if Dick Van Dyke was really going to be able to rescue Sgt. Saunders and Little John from the Germans while Marshall Dillon and FBI Inspector Erskine tried to arrest Johnny Yuma for crimes against good acting.
We have no such problems today thanks to the 200 plus cable and satellite stations available to any American of modest means. And with this explosion of choices, the TV remote has assumed the status of domestic icon, a talisman of power that allows the possessor a window on the universe or at least the ability to find out what the temperature is outside your window.
Such power is intoxicating. But it can also condemn the user, like the Headless Horseman from Sleepy Hollow, to go off on a futile quest in search of something important that can never be found – the perfect television show where even the commercials are riveting entertainment. Unfettered channel surfing is as much an expression of hope as it is a way to alleviate boredom.
Thus, last night, I found myself in a monumental quandary. There was the GOP debate from Florida on Fox News where the grown up candidates were being asked questions by grown up journalists that actually elicited responses that voters might use to make up their minds about a candidate’s presidential qualifications and not demonstrate whether our future president might emote well when asked silly questions about how they are “feeling.”
Then there was Sunday Night Football on NBC with the Steelers going up against the Broncos at Mile High Stadium – classic match-up with classic announcers in Al and John. The fact that there are few things in life more enjoyable than watching NFL Football in Hi-Def was also an attraction.
Finally, to make my conundrum complete, there was the 7th game of the ALCS featuring the Indians – who haven’t won a World Series since 1948 – and the Red Sox who have made a wonderful habit in recent years of coming back from the dead and going on to victory.
For an hour and a half while the debate was occurring, I was clicking like a madman. Both ballgames ended up being as good as advertised (the Red Sox pulled away late to win 11-2) so I missed huge chunks of the GOP debate. This I didn’t mind because the football game was so good, it almost made me forget how badly my beloved Bears have been playing this year (despite an incredibly desperate, 97 yard TD drive with less than two minutes and no timeouts against the Eagles that saved their season temporarily).
However, thanks to old fashioned VCR technology, I was able to tape the debate and watch most of what I missed live. In this, I was not disappointed because the debate was perhaps the most animated, most interesting discussion compared to any of the previous GOP get togethers.
I thought that once again, Rudy Giuliani was sharp, on point, and at times, inspiring. However, he had trouble defending himself from some of the attacks launched against him by Romney and Thompson. There really isn’t any getting around the fact that when Mayor of New York City, Rudy acted at times in a decidedly unconservative manner. How much this truly hurts him I just don’t know. My issues with Rudy revolve around his experience and temperament not his lack of conservative credentials. But for some, I’m sure, his liberal apostasy will keep them from voting for him.
Romney was surprisingly subdued although smooth and very well prepared as usual. He actually had a hair or two out of place which almost made him look human. Why he is wasting his time attacking John McCain is beyond me. Their catfight elicited the liveliest exchanges of the night but Romney’s target should be Giuliani. Besides that, he said nothing memorable and got bogged down a couple of times in minutiae. Not his best performance.
McCain also seemed a little off although he delivered the best line of the night talking about the $1 million earmark Hillary delivered for the Woodstock Museum. He noted that the concert was probably a “a cultural and pharmaceutical event” but that he couldn’t attend because he was “tied up at the time” – a reference to his horrific experience as a POW. That crack garnered a standing ovation and applause from the other candidates.
But McCain seemed a little flat when defending some of his positions and didn’t have the energy the other candidates brought to the debate. A disappointing performance.
The Huckaboob was his ‘ole self, grinnin’ like a possum and reeling off southern aphorisms one after another. I suppose we’re going to have to put up with him for a while longer since he’s closing fast in Iowa and might shock the world and finish 1st or 2nd. He doesn’t have a prayer in the general election if he were to win the nomination so if the GOP wants to commit suicide, the Huckathing is their man.
Hunter,Tancredo and Paul could have stayed home. I think Paul even did more damage to himself by his reaction to the booing in the audience. It was the first venue where his Paulbots seemed to be drowned out by the rest of the audience and it appeared to disconcert him. If possible, he was even more shrill and nonsensical than usual. If people were actually going to give him a serious look last night, I would think they would have to come away disappointed.
But if there was a winner last night, it had to be Fred Thompson – not because of his outstanding performance but because once again, he exceeded expectations. I thought he was rather subdued and tired looking in that first debate but this time, he looked much better (make-up?) and sounded much more alive and forceful. He was animated in his debate with Giuliani over tort reform and I think he scored quite well with his federalism answer to Rudy’s charge. He also took a nice chunk out of Rudy with his pointing out the former Mayor’s inconsistency with regard to sanctuary cities. Rudy’s answer was vague and unconvincing. In short, Fred scored against Rudy while establishing himself as the leading conservative in the field. Not a bad night for someone already being written off by the inside the beltway crowd.
Note to the political parties: Please do not schedule your debates opposite NFL Football ever again. My thumb eventually became sore switching back and forth between the two great American games and I would hate to have to give up watching either one just to prevent carpel tunnel syndrome.