Tonawanda News


October 3, 2012

DUVALL: Debates are flub fodder, but not very much else


Clinton was asked how she felt about voters who liked her experience but preferred a more likable Obama. She rather graciously endured the petty question, conceding “He’s very likable.” Obama, looking up from a note he was writing, rather condescendingly replied, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”

Ronald Reagan utterly devastated Jimmy Carter in 1980 with the simple dismissive, “there you go again.” Carter had been harping on Reagan as a conservative monster intent on dismantling the federal government, which wasn’t all that far from the truth, but Reagan’s folksy demeanor gave him the space to wave away every Carter critique with the simple phrase.

In his debate with George W. Bush, Al Gore came off as a condescending, effete intellectual in 2000 — partly because that’s what he is — and partly because the microphone kept picking up on a Gore verbal tick, that he would sigh at everything Bush said.

Needless to say, that was the start of an eight year trend for condescending, effete intellectuals.

But my favorite debate moment ever belongs to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s infamous “oops”. Perry had been on the primary trail promising if elected to eliminate three federal agencies — commerce, education and ... “what’s the third one?” After a torturous exchange with an incredulous moderator and a failed lifeline from opponent Ron Paul who incorrectly suggested it was the EPA, Perry stated the obvious: “Oops.”

All these memorable debate gaffes make for a larger point: Why do we never remember anything but a stumble or a put down?

Methinks this whole presidential debate thing is a bit overblown.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Contact him at

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