The Current State of American Political Discourse: A Tragedy in One Act

NON-PARTISAN MODERATOR: I’d like to thank my guests, Liberal and Conservative, for joining us today for this debate. Hopefully you can illuminate some key points in your separate philosophies, with the ultimate goal of finding common ground as Americans.

LIBERAL: Yes, exactly. We all want to make America better.

CONSERVATIVE: Quite so. I am pleased to be here.

MODERATOR: OK, then. Our first topic is the economy. It has gone up and down since George W. Bush was elected in 2000, and has suffered setbacks and enjoyed rebounds. What road is it on now? Improving? Worsening? What should be done next? Liberal, we start with you.

LIBERAL: Thank you. First, I want to make it clear that anything negative that has happened to the economy is Bush’s fault, while anything positive is the result of things Clinton set in motion when he was in office.

MODERATOR: Interesting. Conservative, rebuttal?

CONSERVATIVE: I believe my esteemed opponent has it exactly backwards. The economy’s successes have been because of Bush and in spite of Clinton, while the downturns have been entirely due to the liberal media’s influence on the American people.

LIBERAL: Fair enough. But I should point out that Rush Limbaugh is fat.

CONSERVATIVE: I hardly think that’s relevant. Not nearly as relevant as the fact that Michael Moore is fat.

LIBERAL: I believe Limbaugh’s girth is of major importance in this debate and that Moore’s is wholly immaterial. You evidently feel the opposite.


LIBERAL: Let us agree to disagree on this point, then.


MODERATOR: Gentlemen, we need to wrap up this topic and move on.

LIBERAL: OK. I’d say the biggest reason for the sluggishness of the economy is that Ann Coulter is a shrill harpie with bony knees.

MODERATOR: Conservative, rebuttal?

CONSERVATIVE: Your point is well taken. But need I point out that Keith Olbermann’s ratings on MSNBC are very low when compared to those of Bill O’Reilly on Fox News?

LIBERAL: I concede that point.

MODERATOR: Excellent points, gentlemen. Now, let’s move on to another thorny subject: Iraq. What should be our next move in that very sensitive part of the world? Conservative?

CONSERVATIVE: What we need in Iraq are leaders who understand that Al Gore is crazy when he says the Earth is melting.

LIBERAL: I think you’re forgetting the very crucial fact that Dick Cheney shot an old man in the face, and that President Bush can’t pronounce “nuclear.”

CONSERVATIVE: John F. Kennedy couldn’t say “Cuba,” either. He pronounced it “Cuber.”

LIBERAL: That’s an accent, not a mispronunciation!

CONSERVATIVE: Beside the point. You’re dodging the real issue here: We need an amendment banning flag-burning, and we need it NOW.

LIBERAL: No we don’t. What we need is for everyone to realize that since Bush stole the election in 2000, nothing he’s done since then is valid.

MODERATOR: OK, we’ve covered the Iraq situation pretty well, and you’ve both raised some thought-provoking issues. Let’s move on to our final topic: Social Security. Some say the program is in trouble, others say it’s doing OK. What do you say, Liberal?

LIBERAL: Conservatives are supposed to be the moral watchdogs, yet Republican congressman Mark Foley sexually harassed teenage boys.

CONSERVATIVE: But Clinton had sex in the Oval Office.

LIBERAL: Yes, with a consenting adult, not a teenage boy.

CONSERVATIVE: Yes, but Clinton was president, while Foley was merely a congressman.

LIBERAL: Yes, but Foley’s sins involved teenagers while Clinton’s involved adults.

CONSERVATIVE: Yes, but Foley never actually touched anyone, whereas Clinton did.

LIBERAL: Yes, but Foley is unappealing while Clinton is charismatic.

CONSERVATIVE: Yes, but Clinton is chubby while Foley is slender.

LIBERAL: Touché.

MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. This has been a stimulating debate. For your final thoughts, you may each recite one bumper sticker. Liberal?

LIBERAL: “No one died when Clinton lied!”

MODERATOR: Conservative?

CONSERVATIVE: “Annoy a liberal: Work hard and be happy!”

MODERATOR: Thank you both. To our viewing audience, good night, and good luck. Seriously, I mean it. Good luck.

At this time I had a regular gig writing for Glenn Beck's humor magazine, Fusion, which has a decidedly conservative bent. Since I'm not particularly conservative, I often had to call my brother Christopher, who is juuuust this side of being a Nazi, to get tips. "I disagree fundamentally with the premise for this humor article," I would say. "But if I did agree with it, like you do, what jokes would I make?"

This column required that sort of research. I could think of lots of things that conservatives bring up that are irrelevant -- Clinton's Lewinsky situation, Michael Moore being fat, etc. -- but I needed help with the ones liberals are always harping on. Christopher gave me Bush stealing the election (how did I miss that?) and a couple others.

Oh, and the bit about "nuclear" and "Cuba" is more or less a transcript of dialogue Christopher and I actually had.