The Bitch

Definitive Gaze

Living in a democratic society is time-consuming. Under totalitarian regimes, no one has to spend valuable hours evaluating candidates. The deal with dictators is that they abolish voting, and as long as you don't try to depose them or say bad things about them, they don't drag you in front of a firing squad. Less time analyzing debates, more time to watch movies -- that's what The Bitch says. Still, for pure sociological phenomena value, this past week's presidential spectacle at the University of Miami was hard to beat.

Covering the event from the expansive and acoustically propitious University Center patio, The Bitch deployed her new invention, the jeer-o-meter, which produced the first scientific data of the campaign related to the UM student political psyche. This important, restless, at times brutally sarcastic electorate gathered at dozens of circular plastic tables, mobilized by free burgers, hot dogs, French fries, sodas, and bottled water. The jeer-o-meter was designed to register four types of debate responses: boos, cheers, whoops, and jeers(which can include assorted cackling and laughter).

High-volume boos were registered after the following President George W. Bush statements:

"I believe I'm going to win, because the American people know I know how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to lead."

"The Patriot Act is vital."

Extensive jeers and rolling eye movements were recorded for these Bush incidents:

"The enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology of hatred. That's why they're fighting so vocifiercfully."

"Of course we're after Ira --Saddam Hussein -- I mean bin Laden."

"I. Uh. [LONG PAUSE] As commander in chief. [LONG PAUSE.]"

"You cannot lead if you send mexed miss -- mixed messages."

Several male "woo-hoos" were documented upon Bush's transmission of:

"You better have a president who chases these terrorists down and brings them to justice before they hurt us again."

(Laughter minus jeers was picked up at the president's "No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a rapid victory....")

Several isolated debate-response phenomena beyond the jeer-o-meter's capabilities were noted. Sen. John Kerry's "You don't help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the global-warming treaty" resulted in one male student standing up and clapping loudly. Bush's "Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. Why should he?" prompted unique data emission from one male student: "He didn't have any weapons to disarm!" (Scattered laughter decibels resulted.)

Medium to heavy cheers were registered upon the following Kerry statements:

"This president has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of judgment."

"Today we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost: $200 billion -- $200 billion that could have been used for health care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs for seniors, and it's in Iraq."

"I think we need a president who has the credibility to bring the allies back to the table."

"Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us."

"It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong."

Bush sustained only one loud and extended cheer during the debate, after the utterance: "I'd like to thank the University of Miami." It was almost the loudest cheer of the evening, exceeded only by Kerry's "I'd like to say thank you to the University of Miami."

Before the showdown was even over, the war to control the perception of who won was underway. In the UM media center, where hundreds of journalists tapped laptops amid banks of TVs, campaign operatives distributed to-the-second ripostes. Partisans rushed around with copy-machine-warm one-pagers headlined "Breaking Debate Fact #10, Kerry's False Statement" ("John Kerry claimed he's önever, ever' used word ölying.' Fact...") or "Bush vs. Reality" ("Bush: Iraq wasn't a diversion from the War on Terror. Reality...").

But the real message-twisting work came post debate in "Spin Alley," a cyclotron of a room where highly accessible party affiliates milled about freely. At this pundit flea market, national notables such as Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove, Sen. John McCain, and Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe mingled with local politicos Bob Graham, Sen. Bill Nelson, and Reps. Kendrick Meek and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

A little after 10:30 p.m. and shortly after the debate had concluded, the on-campus set of MSNBC's Hardball turned into the political equivalent of ESPN's college football pregame show, except the role of viciously annoying loudmouth sports announcer Lee Corso was replaced by Zel Miller's favorite loudmouth political antagonist: Hardball host Chris Matthews.

Some students, along with school mascot Sebastian the Ibis decked out in a glittery Uncle Sam outfit, jockeyed to get their faces on the popular cable television news show by displaying very creative anti-Bush and anti-Kerry signs.

But mad props go to the intrepid, bespectacled dude in the green UM baseball hat and red T-shirt who held up a sign that spelled out "Poo" in white lettering on a blue background. Throughout the Hardballbroadcast, whenever the camera panned to show panelist and MSNBC foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell, there he was behind her, proudly holding up his Poo placard. The Bitch guesses he was standing up for the rights of those fixated on feces.

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