We've got our feet on the glass coffee table at Julie Orringer's parents house in a nice Cleveland suburb. It's the last day of Operation Ohio, Stephen Elliott's literary invasion of this critical swing state, and Julie's parents have been nice enough to let us and the rest of the writers from the reading series who have not yet flown home stay the night. So Julie's here, and her husband Ryan Harty, as well as Jonathan Ames and Andrew Sean Greer.
Steve bought us all fancy sushi dinner — and by Cleveland standards, I think we got the best sushi available — and we watched this most-anticipated first debate in the fancy TV room with the big screen and Bose system that takes three remotes to operate.
There is lots to say about the debate itself, which was a solid victory for Kerry, and the very opposite of the KO the Bush campaign people were hoping for. (Even William Kristol in the post-game with Brit Hume on Fox said "I think Kerry did pretty well, and we'll have a real Presidential race.")
Which reminds me to lodge the (sadly obligatory) complaint about all the news outlets, some of whom had taken the trouble to gather a bunch of undecided voters from places like Columbus, Ohio in a studio somewhere but nevertheless turned the cameras 99% of the time over to "our experts in the spin room," which most of the time means "paid liars."
I wanted to hear if the voters witnessed the same level-headed Kerry and sniveling, petulant, putative President that we all saw coming through in bright, unflinching resolution on the 52" High-Definition Samsung. Instead the screen was filled with campaign operatives in Coral Gables saying nothing. Fox broadcast a couple hours of two Weekly Standard editors tilting the discussion to the right and Mort Kondrake from Roll Call and a reporter from Washington Post representing the center. (And, in what may be the best measure of Bush's performance, all of them, with no Kerry partisans present, thought Bush had failed.)
Over on CNN, we got a couple of curiously attempts at commentary from Mike McCurry that were impossible garbled due to "technical problems" with the remote feed (hmm . . . I wonder where the Bush/Cheney frequency disrupter kit was operating), so Wolf Blitzer then defaulted over to serpentine Republican operative Karen Hughes, whose forked tougue flickered at length about how her boss' empty stares and eyerolling and unpreparedness was in fact very "Presidential." And in addition to that tongue, her malevolent smile would every so often reveal a crooked little fang — seriously, we all saw it — which I decided must be the vestigial egg-tooth Hughes used to hatch from her reptilian shell on whatever planet she and the rest of her lizard people Republican body-snatchers came from. After the third glitch with McCurry, and another switch back to Hughes, I thought we might catch her, thinking she was off camera, pull a live hamster from her pocket, disarticulate her jaw and swallow the terrified rodent whole.
"W," after all, is just two "V"'s.