Unlike 85,000 of my fellow New Yorkers, I stayed home last night to watch television instead
of going to Central Park for the free concert by the Dave Mathews
Band (scroll down for a video clip). I also
missed the live Webcast of the concert (here’s the setlist), because I was busy clicking
between the season premiere of “The West Wing” and the debate among five
of the candidates for governor in the California recall election, (here’s a video clip). That
was followed by so-called political analysis.
The most insightful remark in the matching of twits came from the debate’s moderator
— “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not Comedy Central” — as he tried and
failed to put a halt to one more of the many practiced quips that dropped like marbles from
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mittle-european lips. The biggest disappointment was the
absence of John Goodman, who made his debut on “The West Wing” as the conservative
Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who has temporarily replaced President
Josiah Bartlett. Goodman would have lent true executive presence to the debate, given
what even an unhappy Bartlett staffer conceded was his “presidential” aura.
But for avoiding direct answers to specific questions and for talking past, over and
under each other, the candidates were no match for the political commentators on MSNBC who
followed the debate with a squawking contest that sounded like the birdhouse at the Bronx
Zoo. Led by blond bombshell Chris Matthews, the “analysis” featured two ex-governors — a
red-shirted baldie, Jesse Ventura, of Minnesota, and a sun-burned baldie, Jerry Brown, of
California — along with a rightwing banshee, Bob Dornan, and other assorted species of experts.
None of them, with the possible exception of Brown, said anything more enlightening than the
Needless to say, making sense was not the point of the debate or the analysis, despite
comments I’ve seen claiming that Schwarenegger shined, or at a minimum did not
tarnish himself; that Cruz Bustamante had more presence than people counted on, let alone a
voice made for radio; that Arianne Huffington offered high-minded comic relief; that Tom
McClintock held out for stiff-necked righteousness, as expected; and that Peter Camejo made a
better impression than the League of Women Voters, which wants to exclude him from the next
debate, would care to admit.