George Graham

Making Sense of Last Night’s “Debate”

First of all, the CNN “debate” was not a debate. Oh sure, Ron Paul kept repeating his Libertarian set piece and there were shades of difference in the Republican party line spewing from the various mouths on stage. But what I saw was seven hand puppets conveying the message that Big Business wants America to hear.

There wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference among the opinions expressed.

You might be old enough to remember Lil Abner. In that comic strip, the baddy kept repeating that what was good for General Bullmoose was good for America. Al Capp adapted the expression from a statement made by Charles E. Wilson, the former head of General Motors, when it was America’s largest corporation.  In 1952 Wilson told a Senate subcommittee, “What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”

I know, the debaters did not suggest that what was good for General Motors was good for America. Quite the contrary. They all insisted that President Obama was misguided to bail out the American auto industry and save a million or so jobs.

Yet that was what the would-be presidential candidates all promised to provide – jobs.

And they would do that by completely unleashing corporations and financiers. No more taxes. No more regulations. No more consumer protections. No more trade unions. No more “red tape” designed to shield the public from the ravages of scam artists or the environment from the depredation of greedy despoilers.

And they (with Ron Paul dissenting) would continue to spend billions on endless wars and redundant military bases around the world.

To pay for all this “good stuff,” they would unravel the social safety net, “privatizing” Social Security and Medicare, abandoning the destitute, and cancelling such “frills” as providing school lunches for poor children and protecting them from abuse.

Obviously, that’s a prescription written by the global corporations that fund the Republican Party. It’s the kind of thing you would expect from the infamous Koch brothers.

But it played to the Tea Party, too.

I am at a loss to explain why Tea Party activists, most of whom appear to be run-of-the-mill Americans with Walmart budgets and polyester taste, would so fiercely align themselves with the interests of global corporations.

Everyone must know by now that these policies would only make matters worse in America. Corporate moguls invest globally, not locally. Any jobs that might be created would go abroad where wages are lower.

Perhaps the populist support they receive has something to do with the devil’s bargain the Republicans have struck with the Religious Right. One of the debaters even pledged to jail any doctor who performs an abortion if he becomes president.

The tragedy of the “debate” was not its cynical disregard for logic, compassion or just plain decency but its smarmy veneer of “civilized” discussion. Even seasoned observers seem to have been sucked in. Matt Latimer of the Daily Beast conceded that:

For the first time this year I looked at the candidates on stage and thought that they actually were not that bad. Each looked like people who could plausibly stand next to President Obama on the national stage (well, except for Ron Paul.) I don’t know what happened.

Latimer was deputy director of speech writing for George W. Bush and chief speech writer for Donald Rumsfeld. So, I can understand why he was favorably impressed. But still, you would think he would recognize a carefully crafted stage play when he saw it. And he was not alone. Several other reviewers took the “debate” seriously, grading the participants and picking the winners (Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann seem to be the unanimous top picks).

I can only hope and pray that American voters are not so easily deceived.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for