Loose Leaves, 1st run Sunday 6 August 2000 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas
By Ben Pollock
Copyright 2000 Donrey Media Group
DATELINE MIRTHOLOGY — The first presidential debate was held just last night. Due to its nature, improvisational rhyming, it was short. Due to its participants, a winner could not be determined by the panel — or Nielsen ratings.
Moderator Evan S. Murgatroyd, the longtime, veteran, pioneer, acerbic, curmudgeonly but never quite lovable political commentator, guided the discussion, asking the questions, calling time sarcastically when the candidates stalled to think of iambs.
Here are the rules as given by Murgatroyd in a submarine hero sonnet, where the rhyme scheme is aabb ccdd eeff then a willy-nilly zz couplet to close:
The rules are just these, you men to elect,
Respond to issues in rhymes you select.
These are samples of the heroic couplet,
Advice? Stay simple with five feet to vet.
As “expert” I can call every shot,
Folks let us call races, like it or not.
My guess: That today’s debate won’t decide
Your preference, no pollsters will abide.
The rules: Each gent will have an opening
Then I follow with questions for reckoning.
You can rebut or, as you want, to veer
To talking points, for so many an ear.
Results are counted by Whitewater Inc.:
Implications, no convictions, just stink.
Murgatroyd then asked the Democrat, Vice President Al Gore, to open.
Thank you, Evan, to have a verse debate,
At last a chance to dance. Hope it’s not too late.
You know me, Al, moderate to the core,
Strength through compromise makes me not a bore.
Gov. George W. Bush then gave his opening stanza after applause for Gore died down. That did not take long. Applause for Bush never was lengthy, either. It is a long time to November, fortunately.
Good Evan-ing, hah! How about Steven-Evan S.?
Was that a nickname you can reminisce?
There’s my sophomoric frat-boy humor
That’ll elect me, then be Dad, with honor.
“My first question,” said Murgatroyd, abruptly, “is what will each of you do about the economy.”
Reagan and Dad cut taxes, push the ticker,
In the ’80s, we helped rich get richer.
“Trickle-down” was the idea. It was a peach;
It didn’t say how to be nice, each to each.
I balanced the budget in the ’90s, I recall,
Perhaps Bill helped. First in decades, “you all.”
Despite pleas from GOPs to cut all tax,
I — or we — cut spending to a low max.
Murgatroyd then asked about foreign policy, with Gore stonily silent and then delivering the first quatrain. During this, Bush fidgeted and counted syllables on his figures. As the audience saw, the Ivy League education of both prepared them more than adequately.
I took mere diplomats eight years while Bill
“Rassled” world leaders, kept them from the kill.
I’m “rarin’ ” now, is that vernacular?
Big Al’s polished, no need for wool-puller.
This may be my first time to the world plate,
But Texas its own melting pot, at quick rate.
Fie to Europe, the other continents:
You to yours. I heed my constituents.
The debate continued, to Social Security and Medicare. The Democrat and Republican found rhymes for those easily enough, both looking to their predecessors and then pronouncing their individuality, their uniqueness.
What tripped the men up were questions from the audience. On a surprisingly unified front, they winked and then talked plain English, giving answers that anyone could read on their pamphlets or Internet sites.
There was no concluding verse from either. As the expert on the television that night, Murgatroyd gave himself, not the candidates, the last word. He went for long lines.
I, Evan S., have heard every word, not only tonight,
But for months of platitudes we have nil insight.
We, both voters and pundits, have created this mess,
We admit having melded the parties, made them coalesce.
Al, George say: We’re for change. We’ll make things as they could.
Both add: We stand for the old days, when times were as they should.