A ticker in every pot

(Just in case you haven’t seen the ticker… watch the bottom of the screen.)

After tonight’s presidential debate it is more clear to me than ever what Americans really need, and what we need is for every American to have one of those tickers they run underneath the debate on CNN.

They put these remote-control thingies in the hands of undecided voters and tell them to dial up or down depending on what they think of what the candidates are saying. So you can follow along on TV and watch Obama’s ticker rise when he talks about Iraq, or McCain’s ticker dip when he talks about needing a hair transplant or whatever. It’s like a running EKG of their political success.

(How can there be any undecided voters at this point? Obama and McCain have been running for TWO YEARS, they’ve been on the news every single day, they’ve visited every town in America with a red light, they debated other candidates in the primaries, they’ve debated each other twice now… unless you just this week emerged from a coal mine, how can you not have picked one or the other? These are the same people who get to the front of the line at McDonald’s and stand there scratching their chins because it’s just too hard to decide between the Quarter Pounder and the chicken strips.)

((Memo to CNN: At one point in the debate coverage, the camera backed up for a long shot and I counted THIRTEEN talking heads on the set, including poor Wolf Blitzer, who stood in the back like the last kid to get picked for kickball. This is not Monopoly. You don’t win by accumulating pundits like houses on Boardwalk. Put three people out there and maybe let them speak for more than eight seconds at a time.))

(((This also, it goes without saying, applies to every NFL pregame show.)))

((((Because we are fair and balanced, we even switched to Fox News after the debate. Sean Hannity was yapping about why Obama once served on a board with former bomber/current college professor William Ayers — because, as you know, if you serve on a board with somebody you believe in exactly the same things they believe in. “He blurbed his book! He blurbed his book!” Hannity kept shouting at some poor guest — honest to God, I don’t know if he was an Obama guy or a McCain guy or the guy who showed up to fix the Coke machine. It was clear he was NEVER going to get a chance to speak. That was it for us and Fox News.))))

Anyway: the ticker. How great would this be on a job interview? “Well, sir, I’d bring lots of experience to the job” (ticker goes up)… “which means I’d of course want a decent salary” (ticker goes down)… “and I played baseball in college so I could hit cleanup for the company softball team” (ticker goes way up).

And of course you would immediately see where you stand on a date: “Maybe you’d like to come over to my place” (ticker goes up)… “to see my comic book collection” (ticker goes down)… “but of course you can’t actually read them, I’ve got them individually sealed in acid-free sleeves” (ticker plummets off screen, date gets up and leaves).

The debates would be so much better if the candidates could see the ticker in real time like the audience does. “Wait! When I said that Americans would have to pay higher taxes, what I MEANT to say, of course, was: I like puppies.”

I’ve spent 570 words so far not actually talking about the debate itself, because the outcome is pretty clear at this point: If nothing truly weird happens in the next four weeks, Barack Obama is going to be the next president.

And if you didn’t know anything about the candidates, and you didn’t know anything about race in America, if all you did was watch the debate and ask yourself: “Which one of these guys is going to be the next president?”, you’d say the same thing.

But of course truly weird things happen in politics all the time. And Barack Obama is a black man and that still matters. And trashing your opponent is sometimes the winning play.

I’ll just add this: When you watched the ticker, and the two candidates talked about their actual ideas — to fix the economy, to cut back on foreign oil, to deal with Iraq — the tickers always went up.

When either candidate started to rip the other, the tickers always went down.

I’m just sayin’.

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