Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Debate Prep for the Rest of Us

    If the candidates spend days on debate prep, then it's only right those who will watch put in some time as well.  For those of you who will watch (have I mentioned I don't like to watch TV?,) here's an idea to help you plow through.

    When I was young, I had a game that I would play in church that helped get me through the sermon. I would write down "Jesus", "God", "Lord", "Christ", and other common words that our pastor used in his messages.  Then throughout the message, I would keep a running tally of how many times each word was used and see which word "won" by the end.  (I would also get a pack of Smarties and randomly eat one about every three minutes to see which color would "win", but that doesn't have nearly as much relevance to this post.)  These games kept me out of trouble and the first actually made me listen to the messages - eventually, I outgrew the need for those crutches.  Now I can get through an entire sermon with just a little help from my wife's elbow (sorry, Keith.)

    I bring this up with Wednesday night's Presidential Debate in mind.  Just in case things get boring (as  Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at the Washington Post fear,) a variation on my old sermon game might do the trick.  Just make a list of common phrases for which each candidate is well known.  For instance, Mitt Romney: "I like to fire people!"  Just kidding.  Honestly, I don't know a whole lot of Romney phrases - I guess that's not a good sign.

    Barack Obama, on the other hand, has had four or five years to build up a nice repertoire of stock phrases.  It's as if his speech writers dig through his metaphorical dresser drawers for those really comfy t-shirts that he's so used to wearing and lay them out time and again.  For instance, "let me be clear" (so common you'd think they'd put it on a sweatshirt... oh, wait...) and "make no mistake."  Start with these two phrases and you are halfway to reconstructing virtually every speech and set of campaign remarks President Obama has given since 2007.

    Well, that should get you started.  (I tend to over-explain things, so I'm cutting this short to avoid beating it to death.)  Grab a pencil and paper and start writing.  You'll be all set by the time the debate kicks off tomorrow night.  And maybe you can stay awake for it.

* * * * *

    One last note:  Those two common Obama phrases?  In case you were wondering, a search of the Press Office section of the White House website produces the following totals:
"Let me be clear" - 149
"Make no mistake" - 230
     So the favorite going into tomorrow night is obviously "make no mistake."  But let me be clear: May the best phrase win.

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