I'm a big fan of action movies. The bigger the explosion, the better. Action movies are one of the few genres that I am willing to plunk down the money to see in the theater because they are just so much better on the big screen. My personal favorite is what I like to call the 'super explosion', where the detonation is so enormous that a visible shock wave rolls out from the center. The best ones have the earth rising and sinking back down like ripples on a pond - preferably in slo-mo.
I honestly wish I could have watched the presidential debate and the ensuing reportage in a movie theater because that was the biggest super explosion I have ever seen on screen. The shock waves are still resonating, nearly a week later.
The first ripple was the moderator himself. While Jim Lehrer did a decent job, it seemed like he was in a state of complete shock at the dismal, lackluster, information-free performance of the Most Gifted Orator of Our Generation™. What was most shocking was that this wasn't an issue of a few gaffes or an annoying tick, it was a 90-minute long fail of epic proportions on several levels - the long pauses, the blame game, the endless distortions regurgitated even in the face of Romney denials (and, later, media refutation), the constant downward gaze (did he have the answers written on his shoes or something? Maybe he hoped the podium would sprout a teleprompter). Expect the President to get more help from the moderators in future debates. Can't have another debacle like that messing up the narrative!
The second ripple fanned out to encompass the Twitterverse - which had it's biggest night in it's short history - and the FaceBook community where the fight over Big Bird really hit it's stride. Because after all, the most important thing going on right now isn't events in Libya and the Middle East; it isn't the failing economy; it isn't even about the importance and impact of Obamacare. No, the most important thing on social media - even almost a week later - is whether Big Bird, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, should stay on the government dole. Good to know the Twitterati are focused on the important issues!
Ripple number three was the media response, which seemed to be a combination of bewilderment and disbelief, with a dash of sarcasm and unfocused rage for flavor. The disappointment was palpable, like a thick, heavy wave creeping down the spines of the One's most fervent followers, finally nestling deep in the pit of their gut, cold and unrelenting. Six days later it lays there still, even though they have desperately tried to distract from it - even going so far as to use Big Bird for their political ends. Talk about desperate! Even worse, the folks at Sesame Workshop are not amused by the new Obama attack ad featuring their big, yellow money maker and are demanding it be taken down.
It seems like it finally broke through the media hive mind that their magic man might just have more in common with the bumbling guy behind the curtain after all. The epicenter of the blast seems to have been the MSNBC post-debate panel (even the Canadians were making fun of them). Shell shocked would be a good descriptor for the panelists. Chris Matthews had an on-camera nervous breakdown, Ed Schultz looked like he needed a scotch, a teddy bear, and a good cry (and not necessarily in that order), and Rachel Maddow was in deep, deep denial and grasping at any straw she could find. The disappointment wasn't just restricted to MSNBC - not even close. Most notably, Al Gore over at Current TV apparently suffered a little temporary insanity in his vain quest for the answer to the burning question in every progressive heart that night: Why?!?
The fourth, deepest, and most important ripple was the one that shook the electorate. As the great Dr. Charles Krauthammer said of Romney's performance:
"I think what he did last night is he dissolved $150 million of negative ads and turned them to dust."
Suddenly, the carefully crafted veil that Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) had been weaving for months was yanked away. Suddenly, an almost "bizzaro world" reality was revealed, where the world's most evil corporate raider was revealed as a compassionate, credible potential president, and the infallible, godlike creature so revered for deigning to step down to earth and grace us all with his omnipotence was exposed as a man whose soaring oratory that so swept them off their feet was apparently really almost entirely due to a TelePrompTer and lots of eye contact and prep time. Suddenly, people remembered how incredibly boring their college professors were - even the "cool" ones. Suddenly people realized Mitt Romney didn't have horns - but did have answers. Suddenly the post-modern Romney construct was replaced with reality for all to see.
The mystique has been ripped away. In it's place is a man whose inevitable reelection is now not quite as inevitable as it once was and another whose unsuitability is being thoroughly reconsidered. And I do mean thoroughly.
To say that President Obama was the only epicenter of the blast would do Governor Romney a great disservice. Most good explosions have several points of impact, and this was no exception. The man performed like a virtuoso. It really was a phenomenal performance for him. He was relaxed, assured, got his points across clearly and concisely, refused to allow lies to remain unchallenged and did what a true leader does - took command of the situation and ran the show with an ease, amiability and competence that was worthy of respect. In short, he looked - and acted - far more presidential than the actual president.
It wasn't just that Obama was a dismal (grim?) failure, it was that Romney was wildly successful. As he is with just about every other thing he has set his mind to.
The full effects of the debate have yet to be seen. The ripples are still resonating as the president and his surrogates desperately scramble for excuses and scapegoats. The president has been saying that the Mitt Romney at the debate wasn't the "real" Romney. What else would he say? That in reality he knows he looked like a frat boy who hasn't been showing up for classes what with all the partying, and had to cram hard to try to (unsuccessfully) pass finals? He seemed annoyed that he had to be there, and it was obvious he didn't have the nerve to brazenly trumpet the low, false attacks he so robustly parrots on the campaign trail when the object of his lies and distortions stands six feet away with a pleasant smile and direct gaze. The high pitch and hesitation in his voice the first time he trotted out the $5 trillion lie gave him away. Not so easy to sling that mud when you're looking the victim of your smears in the eye, huh?
Unfortunately for the president, the entire night seems to have been the highest rated, most followed political event in a very long time. Needless to say, not a good time to choke. No doubt Gov. Rick Perry feels his pain (and a great deal of relief for no longer being the poster boy for choking in a debate). As for the exposure Mitt Romney got from the debate, that has translated into cold, hard cash - more than $12 million in the first forty-eight hours after the debate - and a potent combination of increased enthusiasm and voter conversion (that sometimes stirs up controversy). The bump in the polls has far exceeded expectations, with the most stunning turn around coming from Pew Research's poll of likely voters, which had Obama up 51-43% pre-debate and Romney taking the lead, 49-45%, in the three days post-debate.
All in all, the debate was an explosion of epic proportions, complete with all of the shock and awe such a happening generates. The challenger strode forth from the blast crater with celebratory fireworks exploding behind him while the president staggered, burned and bloody, from the smoking ruin of his negative campaign.
Truly a debate for the ages.
On a side note, does it bother anyone else that the man who has been running the show (almost singlehandedly, if you believe the press) for the past three-plus years was so woefully devoid of facts? This goes beyond the debate, too. On Letterman, he couldn't seem to remember the current national debt of $16 trillion - after all, he's not worried about it. He was apparently also unaware of intelligence on the bloodbath in Libya, continuing to peddle the laughable line that some stupid video caused the "spontaneous" mob action more than ten days after the administration knew it was a planned terror attack. At what point do words like "incompetent", "negligent" or, perhaps more aptly, "cheap politicization sheerly for the retention of power" start to percolate up - and not to describe the republican in the race? Even fellow administration officials were uneasy about the plan to scapegoat the video in order to cover up the egregeous policy failures that resulted in the death of a US ambassador and three others. Hopefully Romney will mention all of this and more at the next debate, possibly setting off a second super explosion.
One other thing: Does this frighten anyone else? Do people really not know what a debate is anymore? God help us: