[Political notes]

A debate to remember (and forget)

Two takes on the first mano a mano between McCain and Obama

A small turnout at Sierra Gold for the debate.
Photo: Iris Dumuk

On Damon’s side of town ...

John McCain hit the jackpot. Minutes into Friday evening’s presidential debate-viewing party at Sierra Gold at Jones and the I-215, someone won $20. Two center-bar televisions cut away from Barack Obama’s meandering economic prescription for the recession, and up popped glowing graphics and the word jackpot in red uppercase letters.

The Sierra Gold folks did their best to hype the debate-viewing atmosphere. Small American flags and toddler-size, flag-colored plastic hats (like the one Apollo Creed wore in Rocky IV) were placed around the bar. The debate played on televisions normally tuned to sports. They even promised candidate look-alike contests.


As the debate wore on, the crowd ebbed, an equal mix of interested observers and uninterested diners. Dan Bishop and Donnie Garritano paid more attention than most. Bishop was leaning toward Obama. He wouldn’t mind seeing McCain as Obama’s Secretary of State. Garritano, a small-business owner, called himself a floundering Republican. He thought Obama would be an ideal vice president.

As talk moved to the proposed $700 billion bailout, Bishop said he was willing to give Obama a chance to revive the economy. “The Republicans have had the White House for eight years.” Though Garritano thought Obama might be better suited to deal with domestic issues, he said he was duty-bound to vote Republican. “As a small-businessman, you almost have to support the GOP, even if the other things a candidate supports hurt you. If you don’t, you’ll probably get screwed with all the tax increases Democrats want.”

Roger Finch and his party viewed the debate from a quiet lounge, the better to dissect each man’s answers. He thought both looked presidential, even though moderator Jim Lehrer had to badger them to look at each other. (McCain never did). “It wasn’t nasty like the Bush-Kerry debates in 2004, so that’s a win-win.” A female companion wasn’t so sure anybody really won: “I don’t know if coming to a bar and drinking are the best circumstances for judging a debate.”

On Aaron’s side of town ...

At a small cabana house near UNLV, the black wig I’m wearing flutters in the wind as I throw my head back in a futile attempt to prevent the strands of hair from winding up in my third slice of pizza. Rough-tasting highballs of vodka and bottles of wine and Michelob Ultra flow as McCain utters “Reagan” for the second time in as many minutes. I make a lame joke about John McCain’s Frankenstein-like stature and am subsequently shushed by two uber-interested law students watching the television.

My wig—the product of a friend’s defunct Amy Winehouse costume, rife with bobby pins and a collapsed garbage bag—isn’t scoring any points with the students, either, but my decision to headbang whenever a political point is scored isn’t about to die, even as the group of six divides into two camps: one drinking, headbanging and making McCain jokes, the other intensely watching the television.

Fourth piece of pizza down, and I’ve moved on to an MGD. More friends have come over, and the once-quiet, concentrated setting has almost turned into a party.

Last-minute political drinking-game ideas flourish over the banter of Obama arguing with McCain.

“Every time ‘Vietnam’ is mentioned, you do a Cambodian sake bomb,” I try to blurt out, but this idea (and joke) suffers from too much thought and clearly too much booze. Next thing we know, Obama is shaking McCain’s hand, and it’s all over. Thank God, we collectively sigh as the TV turns from politics to Grand Theft Auto IV and the sounds of Hot Chip on the stereo.

Maybe if the debates included a balls-out car-jacking fest, they’d be more interesting. But for now, all I’ve got are my wig, my beer and my friend’s cabana house, and for some reason, that still seems more normal than the halls of some college events center.


Aaron Thompson

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