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In case you were wondering

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 20 years ago, in 2004, on the World Wide Web.

In case you were wondering, that strange sound that you heard during the third debate actually was Socrates vomiting.

The candidates sucked. The questions went unanswered. I can’t say that I necessarily blame the candidates for that, though, since the questions mostly sucked, too.

If kudos must be given out, then kudos to John Kerry for actually talking about the wage gap in a question about poverty–although I happen to fundamentally disagree with him on the means of dealing with it:

Next question to you, Senator Kerry. The gap between rich and poor is growing wider. More people are dropping into poverty. Yet the minimum wage has been stuck at, what, $5.15 an hour now for about seven years. Is it time to raise it?

Well, I’m glad you raised that question. It’s long overdue time to raise the minimum wage.

And America, this is one of those issues that separates the president and myself. We have fought to try to raise the minimum wage in the last years, but the Republican leadership of the House and Senate won’t even let us have a vote on it. We’re not allowed to vote on it. They don’t want to raise the minimum wage.

The minimum wage is the lowest minimum wage value it has been in our nation in 50 years. If we raise the minimum wage, which I will do over several years, to $7 an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year. The president has denied 9.2 million women $3,800 a year. But he doesn’t hesitate to fight for $136,000 to a millionaire. One percent of America got $89 billion last year in a tax cut. But people working hard, playing by the rules, trying to take care of their kids, family values that we’re supposed to value so much in America — I’m tired of politicians who talk about family values and don’t value families. What we need to do is raise the minimum wage.

We also need to hold on to equal pay. Women work for 76 cents on the dollar for the same work that men do. That’s not right in America. And we had an initiative that we were working on to raise women’s pay. They’ve cut it off. They’ve stopped it. They don’t enforce these kinds of things.

Now I think that it is a matter of fundamental right that if we raise the minimum wage 15 million Americans would be positively affected. We’d put money into the hands of people who work hard, who obey the rules, who play for the American dream. And if we did that we’d have more consumption ability in America, which is what we need right now in order to kick our economy into gear. I will fight tooth and nail to pass the minimum wage.

And kudos to Mr. Bush for achieving the single most transparent transition onto message that I’ve ever heard from a politician (and that’s saying something). On the same question:

Mr. President.

Actually, Mitch McConnell had a minimum wage plan that I supported that would have increased the minimum wage.

But let me talk about what’s really important for the worker you’re referring to, and that’s to make sure the education system works, it’s to make sure we raise standards. Listen, the No Child Left Behind Act is really a jobs act, when you think about it. The No Child Left Behind Act says we’ll raise standards, we’ll increase federal spending. But in return for extra spending, we now want people to measure, states and local jurisdictions to measure, to show us whether or not a child can read or write or add and subtract.

… And so on. He talked about No Child Left Behind for the rest of the response time.

Bob Schieffer was terrible. The questions were terrible, and Schieffer breezed past opportunity after opportunity for desperately needed follow-ups. His one good moment for the night came when he actually directly asked one of my two questions for George W. Bush. A while after Mr. Bush muttered this empty platitude…

I think it’s important to promote a culture of life. I think a hospitable society is a society where every being counts and every person matters. I believe the ideal world is one in which every child is protected in law and welcomed to life.

I understand there’s great differences on this issue of abortion. But I believe reasonable people can come together and put good law in place that will help reduce the number of abortions.

… Schieffer actually came back around and asked, point blank:

Mr. President I want to go back to something Senator Kerry said earlier tonight and ask a follow-up of my own. He said, and this will be a new question to you, he said that you had never said whether you would like to overturn Roe v. Wade. So I’d ask you directly would you like to?

Alas, my prediction of the necessary follow-up questions also came true. Bush had a full minute and a half in which to speak; here is the entirety of what he said:

What he’s asking me is will I have a litmus test for my judges. And the answer is no, I will not have a litmus test. I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution. But I’ll have no litmus tests.

Kerry got off to a fantastic start in his response:

Thank you very much. Well again, the president didn’t answer the question. I’ll answer it straight to America. I’m not going to appoint a judge to the court who’s going to undo a constitutional right, whether it’s the First Amendment or the Fifth Amendment or some other right that’s given under our courts today under the Constitution. And I believe that the right of choice is a constitutional right. So I don’t intend to see it undone. Clearly the president wants to leave an ambivalence or intends to undo it.

Mate in two moves. Bush either has to answer this–in which case there is no politically acceptable answer for him to give–or else he simply refuses to answer the question again, in which case you simply point to his record and say that his silence here speaks volumes.

So what does Kerry do? Ah, yes, of course. Before he finishes he decides it’s time to insert a canned soundbite about racial equality (why? because women’s equality isn’t good enough to have a 90 second response on its own?) and No Child Left Behind:

Let me go a step further. We have a long distance yet to travel in terms of fairness of America. I don’t know how you can govern in this country when you look at New York City and you see that 50 percent of the black males there are unemployed. When you see 40 percent of Hispanic children or black children in some cities dropping out of high school. And yet the president who talks about No Child Left Behind refused to fully fund by $28 billion that particular program so you can make a difference in the lives of those young people. Now right here in Arizona that difference would have been $131 million to the state of Arizona to help its kids be able to have better education and to lift the property tax burden from its citizens. The president reneged on his promise to fund No Child Left Behind. He’ll tell you he’s raised the money and he has. But he didn’t put in what he promised. And that makes a difference in the lives of our children.

… which of course allowed Mr. Bush to spend his 30 second follow-up on talking about No Child Left Behind. And that was it for the night on reproductive rights and women’s equality.

Good job, genius.

Well, not quite. Bob Schieffer did decide to wrap up with his idea of throwing a bone to women’s issues:

We’ve come gentlemen, to our last question. And it occurred to me as I came to this debate tonight that the three of us share something. All three of us are surrounded by very strong women. We’re all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud. I’d like to ask each of you what is the most important thing you’ve learned from these strong women?

Um. Yeah.

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