Tuesday, September 30, 2008

3 beers for democracy (The Daily Northwestern 9/26/08)

On Wednesday, John McCain decided to suspend his campaign to focus on the financial apocalypse. He asked Barack Obama to do the same. Of course, this would require the postponement of tonight's scheduled debate. At first glance, this might resemble bold leadership. But the show better go on tonight, and I hope nobody confuses McCain's actions with resolve.

This shenanigan is just a political parlor trick, and not a very good one. It is what we do every Wednesday night when there's a paper due on Friday: e-mail the professor, come up with some dramatic excuse, and ask for an extension.

To their credit, McCain and his handlers know the lay of the land. They see he cannot emerge from the debate victorious. He has a 10 percent chance of winning the issues game, but a 90 percent chance of winning the meaningless gestures game. Now, if Obama mops the floor with him tonight, McCain can claim he was too busy dealing with a national crisis to prepare for such a charade. Or he can just not show up. With McCain's confession that he knows little about the economy, I don't think anybody will buy his bravado.

So in honor of this week's biggest joke, I'll raise a glass to him tonight during my Debate Drinking Game. If, for some reason, you have nothing better to do on a Friday night, check out some of the rules below. All you need is a case of beer, a shot glass for each player, and a bit of love for democracy. (Please drink as you would vote: responsibly and often.)

Take one shot whenever McCain says "POW" or "my friends," and do the same for whenever Obama mentions "change." This alone will get lightweights drunk, but if you're into politics, you're probably into drinking. The two go hand-in-hand for the sake of everybody's sanity.

Here, it gets a bit boozy: Take two shots when McCain refers to the "transcendental challenge of Islamic extremism," promises to "pursue Bin Laden to the gates of hell," or makes an old age gaffe (confusing Sunni and Shi'a or referring to Joe Lieberman as a Democrat). Whenever a candidate refuses to answer a hypothetical question, also take two shots.

Then there are the rare three shotters: if Obama can squeeze in McCain's "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" quote, if Jim Lehrer must repeat a question to get a real answer, or if someone in the audience yawns. Also, to make this fair and balanced, take four shots if Obama mentions policy specifics. He never does that, so this shouldn't be too dangerous a rule.

As with any drinking game, there must be some home runs. For these instances, finish your beer. If McCain winks at Palin, drink. If Obama puts on his sunglasses after a witty one-liner, drink. And if Hillary storms the stage and mauls anybody with her harpy claws before turning them into stone, drink. I wouldn't blame her; she's had a tough year.

My friends, you will not walk away from this transcendental challenge of drinking extremism sober. And when the game gets too hard, don't forget you can call timeout and take a breather. If McCain can do it, so can you.

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