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Plaid Adder

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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 5,518

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A Piece of the Binders Full of Women Action


The Plaid Adder

Romney's Equal Pay Answer: Two Solid Minutes of FAIL

Oh, let me count the number of myths about women in the workforce that that asshole ratified in his answer to that question. No, there are too many. I will choose only two.

1) Women are not as ambitious as men.

Because apparently, they didn't even _apply_ for jobs in his cabinet. He, big strong chivalrous man, had to heroically SEARCH for women who wanted cabinet positions in his administration. My ass! MAYBE if you are the governor of Planet Ferenginar you would run into that situation...but not in Massachusetts.

What, these women in these binders were so shy and retiring and meek that you couldn't POSSIBLY have known about them if "feminist groups" hadn't been out there searching for them? No, you asshole; if it's even true that your staff just "didn't know" there were qualified women out there, it's because you and your staff are a bunch of old boys' network cronies who cultivated complete ignorance of these women in order to avoid having to bring any girls into their clubhouse.

2) Women care more about cooking dinner for their kids than about their careers.

This is perhaps the part that pisses me off most. Because it implies a) all women are mothers (otherwise you wouldn't have to do this to get WOMEN into the workforce) b) mothers do all the parenting (because obviously MEN don't need to be home at 5:00 to cook dinner for their kids) c) women with kids don't and can't pull their own weight at the office.

I hate this whole tricolon, but maybe I hate c) the most. Because you know what, Mitt, someone does have to feed the kids. You may be interested to know, however, Mitt, that men of my generation and the generations younger than me are starting to realize the idea that the person going home early to cook dinner for the kids has to be a woman is fucked up, and to understand that by treating men as if THEY don't need any time with their partners or children, the workplace is really screwing them out of something very important. My brother just got laid off, Mitt, and I just spent some time talking to him about it, and a tiny little dagger went into my heart when, after I spent ten minutes telling him what a good father he is and how much I admire him for that, he said as if it was a horrible thing to have to admit, yeah, I guess maybe being a parent is more important than my job. IT IS. IT IS, for EVERYONE, not just for women. But NOTHING about the way our society is constructed acknowledges that or makes it possible for people to act on it. And then along comes Mitt to remind us all that only women give a shit about being available for their children. Fuck you, Mitt. My brother cares. And I have been wishing for years that the profession he's in would allow him to act on that. He didn't take his 12 weeks of FMLA leave for any of his kids when they were born, even though he coudl well afford it. I think maybe he took 2 weeks for his first child. It's not because he didn't want it. It's because he knew the guys he worked with would take that as an indication that he wasn't serious about his job. And that is exactly what you and your "flexible schedule" answer have just implied: that women--all of whom apparently reproduce--will never really take their jobs as seriously as men are supposed to.

For all the shit slung by politicians about how important children are, our economy makes it damn hard to take care of them. My wife and I both work and are both mothers. Like most women in our situation, we could only do this at first by hiring someone else to do some of the parenting work. Now, we have one of those "flexible" situations Mitt is describing. Only Mitt didn't tell you how, in order to be home by 5:00 to cook dinner, you have to go in early before your kid is even awake in the morning, and then go in to work on the weekends, because the fucking work still has to get done. No, he left us all with the impression that women can only be in the workforce if we make special accommodations for them and give them a reduced schedule.

We who work and raise children have a name for the kind of job Mitt just promised to create for all American women. We call it the Mommy Track. The Mommy Track is lateral, not vertical. You don't have a problem with the glass ceiling on the Mommy Track because the Mommy Track does not take you within striking distance of it.

And then--AND THEN--he goes on to tell us that only when the economy is thriving will employers try to recruit women again. Because WE ALL KNOW that women only get into the workforce once all the men are used up. I mean why would you let a WOMAN who WANTS a job take one away from a MAN who NEEDS it?

OK. So. You contrast this with Obama's answer, which began with him noting that women are "increasingly the breadwinners" and that this not just a women's issue but a "family issue." This is is a man who is in touch with twenty-first century reality, my friend. I don't know WHERE the fuck Mitt flew in from. The 1970s, maybe.


The Plaid Adder

The Purest Kind Of A Guy

Still taking me a little while to digest the "binders full of women" remark.

I've now seen in several places the debunking that demonstrates that the story Mitt told wasn't even true--that in fact the now-infamous "binder full of women" was a study done by a coalition of organizations called MassGAP that was specifically trying to address the underrepresentation of women in government, and not something that he ordered. Well, that's par for the course.

This is going to hurt him. Not just because binders are old-fashioned, not just because it implies that he sees no difference between an actual woman and her paper resume. Because any woman working in any profession now knows exactly what kind of guy Mitt Romney is.

A guy who can only hire women out of a "binder" prepared for him by an action group is a guy who has spent his whole career navigating the Old Boys Network. That is a guy who has gotten to where he is by having, as Roy Cohn so memorably puts it in Tony Kushner's _Angels in America_, "the ability to be a good son" to the men further up the ladder. That is a guy whose advancement has been fueled by having gone to college with this guy or played golf with that guy or joined the same country club as the other guy. That is a guy who lives in a world where influence is patrilineal and you only ever move up a step because some man in power has decided that you are "a good guy." That is a guy who has to all intents and purposes been assuming that the profession he practices--in this case, politics--is still essentially all-male.

That, at any rate, is the only way that you get to be the governor of Massachusetts in this day and age without knowing a few women who you would like to have on your team. You think that when Obama was putting his cabinet together, he had to tell his staff to fetch in a binder full of women?

Now, since the story as Mitt told it is actually a lie, it's possible that he did know a few women he wanted to appoint. But in the story as Mitt told it, not only does _he_ not know any women qualified for positions in his administration, neither do any of the men on his staff. Which would appear to be all-male, since otherwise, there'd have been at least one women in that room who showed up with a list of names to put in the pool because she knew all the guys would be recommending men.

So thanks for the binder story, Mitt. Now any woman who's ever worked in any profession dominated by men knows exactly whcih of their asshole colleagues you are.

The Plaid Adder

So, I've now read and watched the Rose Garden address about Benghazi.

And I have this to say:

1) You can tell that both Obama and Clinton feel the loss personally, her perhaps more than him. But it's sure a stark contrast to smirkin' Mitt's response, and it won't hurt for people to be watching that tape a few times between now and November.

2) I would like to know who crafted that speech because it is a masterpiece.

I am not being sarcastic. If you read that speech closely, you will realize that it is so constructed that whether the attacks turned out to be spontaneously motivated by the film or whether they turned out to be a calculated terrorist attack, retroactively that speech will prove that Obama was right.

Because early in the speech, Obama asserts that while they deplore the denigration of anyone's faith there is categorically no excuse for "senseless violence." Then, later in the speech, he links the Benghazi attack to September 11 and says, "No acts of terror will weaken our resolve," etc. He does not explicitly say "the Benghazi attack was an act of terror;" but it is so strongly implied that virtually anyone, looking back after the fact, will agree that this is what he meant. He also does not explicitly say that the attacks were motivated by outrage over the film. But, had it turned out that they were, the speech implies that strongly enough that he's covered there too.

The one thing that is absolutely clear is that it is always referred to as an "attack" and the people who carried it out are always referred to as "attackers"--never as 'protestors.'

This tells me that at the time that speech was written, nobody was entirely sure what the story was--but it also tells me that there was a strong suspicion that this was not going to turn out to be a spontaneous event. It also tells me he's got people on his team who are really good at what they do, which oddly enough I find very reassuring.

3) Mitt's attack on Obama for "not knowing" that it was a terrorist attack soon enough has always been, from my POV, dishonest, no matter how you parse the Rose Garden speech. Why would you want your President out there boldly proclaiming that things are one way when in fact he and his staff know that there are still multiple possible explanations? Why would you want your president broadcasting to the nation things that would, at that point, no doubt still have been classified information? Wouldn't you prefer a president who thought that actually getting to the bottom of this was more important than posturing for the cameras?

Well, I guess if you would, then you would be voting for Obama. Whereas if you what you want from a president is ill-considered impulsive potentially destructive grand-standing, well, you probably voted for George W. Bush a couple times, and you're probably voting for Romney come fall.

Anyway. I'm glad Mitt got the smackdown he's been cruising for ever since that smirking press conference. Man I will be happy when he drops back below the radar.

The Plaid Adder

Pot & Kettle

So, I have really enjoyed watching that picture of a pristine Paul Ryan 'washing' an equally pristine pot in a clean soup kitchen circulate round and round the Interworld. It evokes a kind of dark nostalgia for the Bush years, during which the staged photo-op was raised to an art form. Probably no one will ever top the infamous flight suit photo under the sadly wrong "Mission Accomplished" banner...but coming in a close second, for me, was the photo of Bush 'serving turkey' to the troops in Iraq tht was unleashed with such fanfare one November.

Still. Looking at this picture of a man totally not helping the poor in any way while trying to make it look like he is was also, in a way, depressing. Because in a way it's a picture of all the ways in which charity, by itself, cannot solve our problems.

I have done some volunteering in my life, and the thing I found I enjoyed the most was working in soup kitchens. I like cooking; I like watching people eat food I have made and enjoy it; and I like the fact that it is simple. You make food and people eat it and then they're not as hungry as they were when they came in. A lot of charitable enterprises have unintended negative consequences. But you can be pretty sure that giving someone a meal isn't going to do them much damage. It is also simpler than most of what I do in the rest of my life. It was a good thing for me that whatever had gone wrong with my work during the week, I could at least go help feed a hundred people and that would usually work out OK. At the soup kitchen where I put in most of my volunteer time, they got a lot of donations from local restaurants, so you could usually make something that was actually a pleasure to eat. Now we go to a church that has a very well-developed food pantry (this is what they call it instead of "soup kitchen," which is really a misnomer these days) which not only feeds people on site but packs bags of groceries for people to take home with them. Their schedule makes it impossible for me to cook there, but I help out packing the take-away bags sometimes. There are two kinds: the bag of groceries for people who have access to a kitchen, and the bag of groceries for people who don't have a stove, a can opener, plates, or, basically, a home.

This is important work. They feed a shitload of people. It does matter. But it is not enough. It cannot be enough. Private charity can never and will never truly compensate for the failures of public policy. Charity cannot match the scale of the need. There are too many people who have nowhere to live, too many people who have nothing to eat, too many people who are "food insecure," which is what we evidently call it now when a family cannot be sure where its next meal is coming from.

We believe in charity; we engage in it; we are training PJ to believe in it. Still, when we all take our donated school supplies to church for the local public school, which cannot afford to keep its own students outfitted because of the insane way our city's property taxes are siphoned off to fund private development, and PJ talks with that heartbreaking confidence about how much this will help people, it just makes you want to cry. Yes, it helps some. A truly just and sane approach to public education in this country would help a lot more.

What was Paul Ryan doing in that soup kitchen anyway? Why did they want that photo? Because this is the only visible form conservative "compassion" is allowed to take: the individual rich person, out of the goodness of his heart and fullness of his wallet, donating a little time and money to make life slightly better for a few people some of the time. This is as photogenic as "trickle-down economics" will ever get. If they wanted an image of their guys doing something to help the 47%--hell, to help the 99%--this was the only way they could get it. Even if the work he was doing had been real--and I'd kind of enjoy seeing Ryan do some real cleanup work at a soup kitchen; I've done it myself, and you come out a lot messier, not to say wetter, wrinklier, and smellier, than you went in--it would still, in a sense, have been a lie. Because if he and Romney get elected, they are going to make way more people "food insecure" than that kitchen can ever feed.

The fact that this photo turned out to be pure image--that in fact, what we have is not a picture of work being done but a picture of a man treating a kitchen that feeds hungry people as if it were a movie set--is of course delectable to the connoisseur of irony. But the real irony, the one that scalds me, is the implication that scrubbing a few pots somehow balances out the record of legislative ruthlessness that seeks to strip out more and more public support for the poor even as it moves more and more of the country's wealth away from ordinary Americans. For the scale to balance, Paul Ryan would have to frickin' live in a soup kitchen--and Mitt Romney with him--and wash dishes from sunup to sundown for the rest of his natural life.

The Plaid Adder

Enough with the LOLRyans. I demand LOLBidens!

Yeah, Ryan. I remember the first ultrasound where we saw a fetal heartbeat too.

And yet I remain pro-choice.

And here is why, moved up from the bottom of the thread:

We had a lot of emotional experiences related to ultrasounds during Mrs. Plaidder's pregnancy with PJ. Some exhilarating, some heartbreaking. That is what pregnancy is like. There are so many opportunities for things to go wrong. It is a perilous nine months, and one of the things you learn by making that journey is that conception does not guarantee life.

I know so many women who have had one miscarriage, two miscarriages, multiple rounds of failed IVFs, stillbirths...all while desperately wanting to keep the children they lost. I remember the way a friend described looking at the ultrasound that showed that their daughter's heart had stopped beating--a day before her due date. I know what a fetus whose heart stopped beating days ago looks like on an ultrasound.

All the women I know who lost these pregnancies grieved over them. No matter how far along they were. Eight weeks, seven months, nine months minus a day. The loss of the pregnancy is the loss of the child you begin dreaming of the day that test goes positive. Whatever stage it's at.

We came to the decision, early in PJ's gestational period, that we would never be able to bring ourselves to terminate this pregnancy, no matter what the genetic testing showed; so we didn't pay for the genetic screening they push on you everywhere now. It was somewhat startling to discover that when it came to us, there was nothing that could have made us decide to terminate--not even knowing that the child had trisomy-13 or whatever it is that they scare you with to sell the tests.

That is the decision that WE made. That is the decision that WE had the RIGHT to make. And what we want is for EVERY woman to have the RIGHT to make her own decisions about her own pregnancy.That is what WE learned from all those ultrasounds. For me or Paul Ryan or anyone else to tell some woman who wants to end her pregnancy no, don't do it, that's not what I would do is just as wrong as it would have been for our doctors to say you must take the test, and if it is positive, you must abort. About something this personal, this vital, this potentially life-changing and all-consuming, it is the people going through the pregnancy who MUST have the right to make the decisions. Anything else is a brutal violation of your human rights.

Conception, gestation, delivery, all these things are so much more chancy and indeterminate and unpredictable than these people want you to believe. Life may or may not begin at conception. But women going through this know all too well that conception does not guarantee birth. I know. I have spent more nights than you want to know trying to answer the question why. Why could this baby not have lived? Why was I allowed to conceive but not to give birth? Why does God, or why does nature, allow fetuses and embryos to be created which are genetically non-viable and therefore doomed never to be born? Why all this waste of potential life?

This shit is complicated, it is emotional, it is hard, it is a source of real grief for so many women. And when I see a guy like Paul Ryan tell a story like this and then look out at us with his Disney doe eyes as if that makes it all so simple...well, I am going to see if I can get through this paragraph without using any more profanity. What you saw on that ultrasound, Paul, was possibility. A possible child and an actual child are two different things. Trust me. People break their hearts on that difference.

It's all so simple to you, you arrogant...well, OK, I'm in a new paragraph now, but still, serentiy now. All right. There are many things I am sick of. One is the way the right manipulates fetal imaging for its own purposes. Because what htey are doing is playing with the heartshaking emotions attached to pregnancy in an attempt to score their bullshit political points. And that is not OK, all right? Our hearts are not your fucking playthings, any more than our bodies are.

The Plaid Adder

Let's make this the VP Debate Plaidder House Party Thread. Drinks are on me!

...I at least am confident that it won't be boring.

Enjoy, everyone,

The Plaid Adder

I know why Romney hates Big Bird.

In case anyone is curious. It is the same reason Dobson hated on SpongeBob Squarepants, back in the day:

Zero Tolerance

That piece was about the right-wing attack on SpongeBob Squarepants over his appearance in a video called "We Are Family" which Dobson thought was promoting homosexuality. Here's the chunk that explains Mitt's attack on Big Bird:

It's precisely because they recognize <television's> power that the right wants to control what comes out of the box. And for the past 35 years, with Sesame Street leading the way, the dominant ethos in children's educational programming (as distinct from, you know, the crap that corporations produce just to sell toys with) has been that children's TV should teach them to cooperate with, respect, and learn from cultures and people who are different from them. And that has had an enormous impact.

I was born the same year Sesame Street premiered. Sesame Street taught me to read. It also introduced me to a universe very unlike the suburban neighborhood in which I was growing up. It was set in an urban neighborhood tenanted by a multiracial cast in which working-class families were well represented. It introduced me to a whole range of brightly colored creatures who expanded my idea of the boundaries of the possible, and to a zany sense of humor that taught us to expect the unexpected and greet it with shrieks of delight. I was enthralled by it, and the effects were lasting and permanent.

Once, when I couldn't have been more than 7, I visited a friend of my mother's and was flabbergasted when she told me that she thought Sesame Street was "just awful." I asked her why. She said, "It's teaching children Spanish!" I still didn't get it. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with learning Spanish. Weren't we supposed to like learning things? Wasn't that what school was for?

Now, of course, I realize what that woman's problem was. And, in her own way, she was right: Sesame Street didn't make me a Spanish speaker, but it did teach me enough Spanish so that I now recognize a number of words and I could still count to 20 in Spanish if you gave me enough time and a few do-overs. Spanish doesn't now seem to me like a completely foreign language. It's more familiar, and therefore less frightening, and when I hear people speaking Spanish, I don't think of them as aliens from a hostile planet. And the ideological descendants of this woman, 35 years later, want to make damn sure that no PBS program gets a chance to do for gay people what Sesame Street did for African-Americans, Latinos, the disabled, Native Americans, and all the other cultures and identities that were represented on that show.

This battle matters, people. No matter how stupid it looks. ... This is about whether the voters of the next generation will believe that tolerance is a virtue to be encouraged or a vice to be avoided.

It's the message of tolerance--yea, even celebration--of diversity that the right-wing hates. That's what Big Bird is a symbol of for them, and that's why Mitt took a shot at him; it was disguised as a fiscal responsibility point but really it's a dog whistle for the rabid fundamentalist base. Unfortunately the dog whistle turned out to be audible to other people as well.

The Plaid Adder

The Immoderator III


Sorry...in the first version I posted all the stage directions disappeared. Enjoy.

(In a nondescript room with words from the U. S. Constitution on the walls, two men stand behind two podia. One is smirking and chuckling to himself. The other faces the camera with a world-weary stare. A chair placed at the edge of the stage for the moderator is empty. Time passes. ROMNEY starts tapping on the podium and jiggling coins in his pocket)

ROMNEY: (for the smirking man is he) What kind of an operation is this? We’re almost three minutes late now. Soon as the moderator shows up I’m going to fire him.

(OBAMA turns the world-weary stare on ROMNEY)

ROMNEY: You know, in a business setting this kind of tardiness would not be tolerated.

(From backstage a voice is heard remonstrating with another unseen person)

PLAIDDER: (offstage) No. I’m not going out there.

ROMNEY: You want to do a little practice round while we’re waiting?

OBAMA: No thanks.

ROMNEY: What’s the format for this one? Suddenly I can’t remember.

OBAMA: She never told us.

ROMNEY: What do you mean “she never told us?”

PLAIDDER: (still offstage) I cannot do this again. It’s just—so—and they never answer the fucking questions! Not ever!

OBAMA: You’ve never done one of these before, have you?

ROMNEY: Oh, yes I have. I love debating. I do it all the time at home. I have five boys, you know, and they’re all aggressive loudmouths who like to interrupt.

OBAMA: This one’s different.

ROMNEY: How different?

OBAMA: You’ll see.

(PLAIDDER flies onto the stage as if someone has just given her a swift kick. She collects herself and takes her seat. ROMNEY is surprised to see that she is female. And not in a good way. OBAMA allows the world-weary stare to rest on PLAIDDER briefly.)

PLAIDDER: Good evening, gentlemen, I apologize for my tardiness. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my brain. Tonight we bring you the first and a half presidential debate of 2012. I am the Plaid Adder, and I will be the immoderator of this debate. In order to create the best possible opportunities for substantive exchange—

ROMNEY: Since you were late, I’m going to go ahead and start my opening statement. Four years ago, when my opponent--

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, I haven’t finished explaining the rules.

ROMNEY: --took office, we had a strong economy--

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, we haven’t started yet.

ROMNEY: --unemployment was virtually unknown--

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, stop talking or you will get a time out.

ROMNEY: (flabbergasted) What?

PLAIDDER: You heard me. I will direct each question initially to one of you--

ROMNEY: I'm not a two year old. You can't put me in time out.

PLAIDDER: A, that’s a matter of opinion, and B, watch me.

(PLAIDDER cuts ROMNEY’s mike. He doesn’t notice at first, and continues talking through the next exchange.)

PLAIDDER: I will direct each question initially to one of you. You will have two minutes to reply. Then the other gets a chance to respond. After that it will be open for discussion. When you want to speak, please raise your hand and asked to be called on. Are you ready?

(OBAMA nods. MITT has just noticed that his mike is off, and is gesturing angrily while his mouth moves.)

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, the first question is for you. The other night I heard you say you are not planning to cut taxes for the rich. This was a surprise to me, as you have been promising to do so since your campaign began. Either you jettisoned your entire platform on a whim, or you told a blatant lie in an attempt to deceive people into voting for you. Which is it?

ROMNEY: Is this thing on?

PLAIDDER: We can all hear you, Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: I will not cut taxes for the richest Americans. As President I will be about helping ordinary Americans, the ones who have been so badly hurt by my opponent’s failed policies. I will put people back to work. I will end unemployment. Under my administration, the sun will always shine, everyone will always be grilling out in the backyard, and unicorns will caper across surburban lawns, gamboling with joy. Troubles will melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops. I will tell Mother Nature to rearrange the sky, so that each and every one of you can have the perfect guy.

(There is an awkward pause)

PLAIDDER: President Obama, would like to tell us why we should vote for you and not for Mr. Bright Side?

OBAMA: When I took office four years ago, the economy was in chaos. Eight years of Bush’s policies had brought not only the United States but the world to the brink of destruction. I have spent the past four years dragging this country inch by inch back from the brink of destruction. I have reached across the aisle and achieved incremental gains which while not world-transforming have at least staved off the Apocalypse for the time being. I ask for another four years so that I can continue the long, slow, absolutely excruciating process of rebuilding—

ROMNEY: Mr. President, you’ve had four years, and all we have to show for it it—

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, he still has ninety seconds.

ROMNEY: --is higher unemployment, a stagnant economy—

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, if you continue interrupting—

ROMNEY: --more government debt—

PLAIDDER: Time out, Governor.

(PLAIDDER cuts his mike. ROMNEY realizes this time, and begins boiling with rage.)

PLAIDDER: Mr. Obama, please continue.

OBAMA: I ask for another four years to continue the long, slow, absolutely excruciating—


PLAIDDER: Governor Romney!


(PLAIDDER produces an air horn)



(ROMNEY stops talking)

PLAIDDER: Mr. President, you were saying.

OBAMA: It’s all right, I’m done.

PLAIDDER: You’re done?


PLAIDDER: How can you be done?

OBAMA: Is that a question? Because I think it’s Governor Romney’s turn.

PLAIDDER: All right…Governor Romney, since you never responded to my first question anyway, I’ll ask it again using shorter words. Do you have an actual plan for your presidency, or do you just make up new shit every day based on your internal polls?

ROMNEY: Everything I say is true.

PLAIDDER: Including about how 47% of Americans—

ROMNEY: No, not that.

PLAIDDER: So that was a lie.

ROMNEY: No. I was wrong.

PLAIDDER: So you don’t think that receiving government assistance means you have abdicated responsibility for your life.


PLAIDDER: So under your administration we can expect you to expand programs like food stamps and welfare.


PLAIDDER: Why not?

ROMNEY: Because the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of doing that. It should be left to the states.


(ROMNEY considers and rejects the first six answers that come to him)

ROMNEY: Let me tell you about how my opponent plans to destroy small businesses. He—

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, answer the question.

ROMNEY: --wants to raise taxes on children’s lemonade stands—

PLAIDDER: You can’t do it, can you?

ROMNEY: --I will give your children tax credits so that they can outsource their squeezing operations to Malaysia—oh, shit, no, I’m not supporting that policy any more…or.... Wait. What day is it?

PLAIDDER: Turning to foreign policy, Mr. Obama, the next question is for you. I would like to hear from you how you plan to respond to the growing unrest in Syria, and to the rest of the turmoil resulting from the “Arab Spring.”

OBAMA: On the one hand, it is vital that we do everything we can to encourage the growth of real democracy in that region. On the other, as the eight years of the Bush administration taught us, attempts to intervene militarily on a large scale are extremely counterproductive. The best we can do is to provide support for the newly-emerging governments—

ROMNEY: I don’t see how we can even do that as long as we have a president in office who sympathizes
with terrorists—

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, if you want to speak—

ROMNEY: --like the ones who attacked our embassy in Benghazi—

PLAIDDER: --raise your hand and I will call on you. But—

ROMNEY: --and when I am President—


ROMNEY: It IS my turn! I made a shitload of money and I became governor and I paid for millions of dollars’ worth of political ads and made Ann go out on the campaign trail even though I told everyone it wasn’t a good idea and Goddamnit IT IS MY TURN. My opponent has had four years to apologize for his weak governing and—


(ROMNEY stops talking)

PLAIDDER: Mr. President, would you care to respond?

OBAMA: Not really.

PLAIDDER: Not even to explain to this jackass that the protests in Egypt and the attack in Benghazi were two totally different events and that nobody ever sympathized with the attackers and that the attack in Benghazi was not really about the movie anyway because people don’t come out to protest a movie with grenade launchers?

OBAMA: My opponent wants to talk. Let him talk.

PLAIDDER: Do YOU want to talk?


PLAIDDER: Do you want to be re-elected?


PLAIDDER: How bad do you want it? Because right now, let me tell you, it feels to me like I want you to be reelected a lot more than you want to be president for another four years.

OBAMA: If you think about that for a few minutes, Ms. Plaidder, you will see that it makes a certain amount of sense. You want me to dedicate my life to fighting all the people who are working to turn this country into a permanent oligarchy. But don’t dedicate your own life to it. And if you did, you would understand how exhausting it is.

PLAIDDER: I can’t dedicate my life to that. I have a child to raise.

OBAMA: I have two.

PLAIDDER: Well I know, but…I mean, after 2008, I just couldn’t do it any more. I thought well, those bastards are finally out of power, now I can finally rest. And then it turned out that--

ROMNEY: That’s right! President Obama has been a disaster in foreign policy as in everywhere else. Under my administration, America will be respected again, so that all I have to do is open my mouth and fire off some ill-considered, ignorant, incendiary gaffe, and—wait a minute. What’s going on?

PLAIDDER: I’m sorry, Governor, you interrupted me so often I never had a chance to explain this. In lieu of electrodes, I have installed the Nonviolent Anti-Bullshit Device, or NABD, which I enabled just a few minutes ago. The NABD detects the bullshit brainwaves emerging from an individual’s head and translates them into a true statement, then feeds them into the language centers of the individual’s brain. Basically, Governor, it means that from now on whenever you open your mouth you’ll be telling the truth. Unfortunately it’s environmental rather than personal, which means it works on myself and the President too. As I was saying—

ROMNEY: You can’t do that!

PLAIDDER: Governor Romney, it’s my brain and I will do what I like. I watched you lie for a solid hour Wednesday night and I can’t take it any more. Since you came in here I haven’t heard you say a single goddamn thing that I believe—or that ANYONE who’s been following this election would believe—you really mean. Except for the part about cutting spending. That I believe.

ROMNEY: I WILL cut spending! I will start with your brain!

PLAIDDER: My brain is privately funded, Mr. Romney. Next.

ROMNEY: Then I will eliminate funding for PBS!

PLAIDDER: Oh. Yes. Because that will balance the budget.

ROMNEY: I mean I like Big Bird—

PLAIDDER: Big Bird? Listen, you jackass, do you know what PBS does? I mean do you? Do you know what the Children’s Television Workshop is for? Do you know why shows like Sesame Street were created in the first place? To give Jim Henson the chance to build more Muppets? No. It was to teach children to read, you asshole. Why? Because EVEN THEN they knew that the kids in the poorer neighborhoods weren’t getting what they needed from the public school system and they knew it was hard to fix but they figure one thing we can bank on is that kids will watch television if you put them in front of it and maybe we can use TV to get some instruction to kids who are starving for it. Sesame Street taught me to read before I was old enough that anyone even thought about trying. It taught millions of other kids who never got to go to preschool or who weren’t getting enough from kindergarden or first grade or whose parents wouldn’t or couldn’t help them learn how to read. It taught them to LIKE reading. Sesame Street, the Electric Company, Ghost Writer, Square One, all that shit we grew up on, it was free education that was accessible to anyone who got decent TV reception. It was PUBLIC EDUCATION. You support public education, right? You love teachers and are their best friend, right? Or was that yesterday’s platform?

ROMNEY: I love…I love…privatizing the one unionized profession left in this country—SHIT! What the FUCK is this?

PLAIDDER: Go on, Mr. Romney.

ROMNEY: I’m not talking any more until you turn that thing off.

PLAIDDER: Excellent. Mr. Obama, let me ask you about public education. Do you really believe that carving out a few decent public schools and making them application-only counts as education reform? Because that would seem to be what your secretary of education believes.

OBAMA: It is a pragmatic, incremental change which is politically possible to implement.

PLAIDDER: Do you believe that Arnie Duncan created an excellent public school system in Chicago to which you would be proud to send your own children?

OBAMA: You know I sent my kids to Lab.


OBAMA: And where do you send your daughter?

PLAIDDER: That’s not the issue here, Mr. President—

OBAMA: It certainly is the issue. You have no idea how tired I get of people like you bitching about why I’m not doing this and not doing that. It’s because these things are impossible to do. No, I haven’t fixed public education in this country. You can’t fix public education in this country. Nobody who runs this country really wants to do what it would take to make the kind of education that you want your child to have universal and free to all. You want me to end poverty—

PLAIDDER: Look, I have never asked you to end poverty—

OBAMA: Well, that is what it would take to really fix public education, isn't it? You want me to do all these things that Congress would never allow and which even if I could do them would make it absolutely impossible for me to be re-elected and then if I don’t get re-elected you will say I didn’t want it enough. You talk a lot, but what do you do? WHAT are YOU doing to make any progress on any of the things you say you care about?

PLAIDDER: I am not the fucking President of the United States, all right?

OBAMA: Answer the question. What do you DO?

PLAIDDER: What CAN I do? My God, running up to 2008 I did everything. And what happens? We got you into the White House, we got Democratic majorities in both houses…and out of that we got what? The Affordable Health Care Act. Which—

OBAMA: Which is better than nothing, correct?

PLAIDDER: Which still doesn’t—

OBAMA: You were bitching up one side and down the other about how I would do nothing for gay people. Is Don’t Ask Don’t Tell gone or not?

PLAIDDER: Yes it is, but—

OBAMA: You did not get what you want. Well, what you want is not possible. You got what is possible. If you don’t appreciate it, then let that guy win.

PLAIDDER: I mean what the hell kind of hope and change is that? “Obama/Biden 2012: You get what is possible.”

OBAMA: It is all the hope and change I have left in the bank after four years of doing this job. Sorry.

PLAIDDER: You know what, I’m just going to turn this fucking thing off…

(PLAIDDER disables the NABD. ROMNEY brightens up)

PLAIDDER: Let’s bring Governor Romney in on this. Governor, tell us how much you support civil rights for all Americans.

ROMNEY: You mean like…including you?

PLAIDDER: Yes. Including me. And my family. Because so far all you’ve told me, that I believe at any rate, is that you plan to deprive my child of her favorite TV shows.

ROMNEY: I believe in the American family. The family is what makes America great.

PLAIDDER: Wonderful. And my family, which consists of two mothers and a daughter. Do tell me how much you believe in us.


PLAIDDER: Because gay-bashing isn’t a vote-getter any more. I mean it is with your base, but of course they’re insane, and there aren’t that many of them any more, which is why you’ve been behind in the polls since you started pandering to them. So please. Lie to get votes. I promise I won’t touch the button.

ROMNEY: Of course…I believe in…

PLAIDDER: Oh please. Say the word ‘tolerance.’ Say it! Say it!

ROMNEY: Isn’t it President Obama’s turn?

PLAIDDER: Not currently, no.

(ROMNEY’s face becomes red. His eyes start to bug out. He starts speaking to himself in a strangely frantic and disjointed way)


(smoke begins to come out of his ears)

PLAIDDER: But Governor Romney…why don’t you just say what you really believe?


(Two security guys come on, grab ROMNEY, and carry him off the stage. We hear the sound of his head being cooled off in a bucket of water)

PLAIDDER: (standing up) Well. It’ll probably be a day before they can upload the new operating system, so I guess we’re done.

OBAMA: Thank goodness.

PLAIDDER: Mr. Obama…I’m sorry my expectations are unrealistic. I know they are. But by God, you are all that stands between me and four years of…that. You KNOW that rampant plutocracy is what killed this economy. You KNOW that whatever that bastard says, rampant plutocracy is what we will get if he’s elected. Can you blame me for wanting you to just TRY to call him on his bullshit?

OBAMA: Ms. Plaidder, when some right-wing maniac flames you over something, do you respond?


OBAMA: Why not?

PLAIDDER: Because that’s what they want. They want to drag you down to their level. If you act like you give a shit, that’s mission accomplished for them.

OBAMA: So what do you do instead?

PLAIDDER: I post the flame in the DU lounge so everyone else can have fun with it.

OBAMA: You understand why I’m asking you these questions?

PLAIDDER: Of course I do, but as you pointed out, I am not the President of the United States. I don’t have to reach undecided voters. What people think about me does not matter. I just…I mean really, what I really want to know is…why can’t it be any better? Why can’t politics be any better than they are? Why can’t this place be any better than it is?

OBAMA: Maybe it can be a little bit better.

PLAIDDER: That’s all there is? Maybe a little bit better?

OBAMA: Yeah. That’s all there is.

PLAIDDER: I don’t believe you.

OBAMA: You don’t have to.

PLAIDDER: All right, Mr. President. (pause) Goodbye. And thank you, for what you were able to do.

(OBAMA disappears. A five-year-old girl runs in)

PLAIDDER JR: Is it over? Is it over? Are you done?

PLAIDDER: Yes. PJ. It’s over. Let’s go to the park.

(They start walking out, hand in hand)

PJ: Who won the debate?

PLAIDDER: I don’t know, sweetheart. Maybe nobody.

(They exit.)

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