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Sean Penn

Sean Penn

Posted: September 26, 2008 11:54 PM

Tonights Debate Loser: You and Me

Following Senator McCain's "barking poodle" stroll on Washington, I was happy to see him grace the American people with his presence at this first presidential debate. The candidates stood toe to toe for nearly ninety minutes, each taking few opportunities of direct challenge, leaving it to moderator Jim Lehrer to orchestrate and re-orchestrate the interaction. The real debate is being played out right now, as pundits and viewers analyze, argue, and dissect the presentation in search of a winner. Since I don't know who the winner will be, I figured I'd talk about the loser. That would be, you and me.

In a discussion that was meant to be principally focused on foreign policy, neither candidate uttered the words "Palestine" or "Palestinian" once.

John McCain, celebrating himself as a maverick, reinventing his voting record, and name-dropping world leaders, simultaneously re-exhibited his enduring ignorance of the cultural dynamics that led to his misjudgment on Iraq in the first place. Senator Obama, at least gave a little nuanced oxygen to the conversation in his statement that Ahmadinejad may not be the most powerful man in theocratic Iran -- an often mis-advertised political and cultural evaluation.

The result is another frustrating piece of American media that is at once far too polite, and at the same time, dismissive of an American public's need to know anything beyond jingoistic self-aggrandizement.

So, now I'll go out, throw back a couple of sakes at the sushi bar, and re-play this thing in my head. I'll wonder about the state of Bill Clinton's political menopause, and the gullibility of a nation searching for a daddy. And then I'll find a way to giggle. I'd like to see a debate between John McCain and his own vice-presidential choice, were she his opponent in the presidential race. The picture I'm seeing of that exposes both as car salesmen: one of Rolls Royce's, the other of used pick-ups. Somewhere in between there are hopeful young people following an elegant professor from Harvard in belief of a better day. I want those people to win. Bottoms up. (This is not an economic pun...or is it?)

Read more reactions to the first presidential debate from HuffPost bloggers, including Nora Ephron, Bob Shrum, Madeleine Albright, Paul Reiser, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Crow, and more.