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“Rock The Vote Debate”—That 70s Show

 It started sometime in the late 1960s. This was the beginning of the end of America as we knew it. Up until the ‘Summer of Love’, there were children and then there were adults. The adults ran things, acted responsibly and were respected by children who obeyed and tried to emulate them.

 This was before the ‘Generation Gap’ replaced the bridge which had connected the old and the young, resulting in a devastating case of role-reversal. Faced with the admonition that no one over 30 was to be trusted, parents ceded their roles as leaders and shapers of opinion to their children, and donned the love beads of same.

 Nearly everyone’s family album contains some embarrassing photo of Aunt Josie with a peace medallion or Uncle Harry with a Nehru jacket. Older celebrities also did not want to be on the wrong side of the Gap, and they began popping up everywhere on ‘cool’ TV shows like Laugh-In, dressed in fab gear and spouting hip lines like; “You bet your sweet bippy!” and “Here comes da judge.” Who can forget presidential candidate Richard Nixon nervously asking, “Sock it to me?” Some, like Phyllis Diller even made a career out of this cringe-inducing shtick, but most adults, excepting liberals, soon regained their senses and returned to acting their ages.

 I was reminded of this phenomenon last week while watching the “Rock the Vote” Democratic presidential debate. Deep in the heart of Liberal Land, eight candidates fell all over each other trying to look, act and respond to the questions of the Harvard crowd in the coolest of fashions. The result was what one would expect, only more so.

 Like the 70s themselves, the experience was an equal mix of comedy and pathos. The only thing keeping it from total farce was the absence of Dick Gephardt, the only man in America who actually admits to being the son of the proverbial milkman. He would have been as out of place with this audience as was Rueben on the Partridge Family bus. Not that any of the rest of them didn’t remind you of that middle-aged, female teacher who tried to do the funky chicken at your sophomore hop.

 First there were the clothes. This was Hah-vad after all, so five of the eight men wore suits but removed the jackets to demonstrate their willingness to take a walk on the wild side. The other two, Dennis Kucinich and Wesley Clark, wore black turtlenecks in a defiant tribute to that avant guarde moment in the 60s (think Illya Kuryakin in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E”) when that attire was deemed acceptable in lieu of suit and tie. The look made Kucinich appear even more insignificant than usual while it seemed to render Clark amorphous.

The debate itself was surprisingly animated while the videos from the each of the candidates’ camps were excruciatingly bad, especially those that attempted to pander woefully to the hip-hop set, recalling memories of Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French) singing “It Ain’t Me Babe” in the 60s.

The questions that got the most press coverage concerned reefer madness, binge drinking and casual-sex hookups—just what the parents of a Harvard undergrad might expect for the $150,000 price tag. One such question from an Ivy League coed was:


I'd be curious to find out, if you could pick one of your fellow candidates to party with, which you would choose. But keeping in mind, partying isn't just, you know, who do you think can shake their groove thing. I mean, we're talking, who's going to be loyal to you? Who is going to stand by your side? If you get sick, who's going to hold your hair back? There's more. There's more to it. Who's going to be a team player, you know, if you — imagine if you were single again. If you see a cutie across the room... who's going to be your wing man? Who's going to take one for the team?

Replying in what can only be described as a “Mr. Furley” moment, holy Joe Lieberman said, “I hope my wife understands this. I'd like to party with the young lady who asked that question.” The camera did not record the young lady’s reaction but if it was anything akin to mine, it wasn’t pretty.

Next came a question via email that was eagerly anticipated by the audience—and please note the wording; "Which of you are ready to admit to having used marijuana in the past?" The results? Yes: Dean, Edwards and Kerry. No: Kucinich, Lieberman and Sharpton with Carol Moseley Braun abstaining, so to speak. Clearly this is not your father’s presidential campaign.

Truly representative of the throwback quality of the whole evening though, was this from the Peter Pan-ish Dennis Kucinich:


The question that was asked earlier by the young woman about why would young people want to pick any particular candidate, and in my case it's because the same passion that I felt at age 20 about changing the world, that fire in the heart, that fire in the spirit, that same willingness to try to change it all resides in me right now. It's that rebellious spirit that doesn't accept the status quo, that's ready to take a vision and take it to the farthest place.


In the case of these Democratic presidential candidates, that place would appear to be Never Never Land. Right on, dude.