If only President Barack Obama had been able to repair to his corner between questions, sit on a tiny stool, and have his political advisers pepper him with advice as they wiped the sweat off his brow and had him rinse and spit into a bucket, he might have been able to change the trajectory of Wednesday night’s technical knockout by Mitt Romney.
And as well as he did, Romney wasn’t perfect. He likely would have fared even better if he could have refocused his message via sage advice, and a good toweling off.
And such interludes, particularly if they were miked up (a la “Rocky” movies), would definitely add to the experience for the at-home viewer, many of whom were driven into near-catatonic states by this week’s rendition of, “I should be president because I know a lot of really big numbers — so there.”
Imagine this last debate with these additions, if you will:
Moderator Jim Lehrer starts the donnybrook with pre-match instructions: “All right, I want a good, clean debate, gentlemen. No low blows or rabbit punches. No ‘birther’ comments or accusations that Bain Capital killed people. Stay out of the corners, and try not to look so damn stuck-up and prissy while your opponent is talking. I want polite looks of attentive respect, gentlemen. Are we clear? Now go to your podiums.”
The bell sounds. The first round of questions goes just as it did before, but after each has answered, rebutted a few times, interrupted the other, and been warned about those horrible “I can’t believe this guy is even allowed on the same stage as someone as awesome as me” looks, they return to their corners.
Obama: “He’s all over me. I can’t get my breath. I think it’s the altitude.”
David Axelrod: “You gotta hit him, champ. Hit him hard. You gotta jab him with Swiss bank accounts and his apparent desire to start a war with any Mideast country that looks at him funny. Then unload with a roundhouse ‘47 percent attack.’”
Obama: “I’m telling you I can’t get him off me. He’s too strong. HE’S TOO STRONG.”
Axelrod: “You’re just wandering around out there like you’re half asleep. What was that crap about your anniversary? If you keep this up, you’re going to have four years free up to make kissy faces at Michelle all you want. Now get out there and hit him. He’s got no plan. He doesn’t know whether he’s coming from the left or the right. He’s soft, and rich, and … God’s sake, man, you’re getting beaten up by a man named Willard. He doesn’t know this is a show. He thinks it’s a fight.”
In Romney’s corner, of course, the tenor is a lot different.
Romney: “I’m killing him. I’m going to go for the knockout.”
Stuart Stevens: “Don’t you get cocky. You made plenty of mistakes out there and he’s a very dangerous fighter. If Obama happens to wake up some time in the next 80 minutes, he could kill you.”
Romney: “Kill me? Kill me? I’m the greatest of all time. I’m going to hit him with unemployment, then Obamacare, then I’ll bring a deficit roundhouse up from the floor and we’ll be sipping Diet Fresca in the White House before he knows what hit him.”
Stevens: “You stay away from him, now. You’re up on points and you don’t want to take any chances. And what the hell was that Big Bird line? I’m telling you, one more move like that and you could wake up to find Lehrer standing over you counting 10. No clinches, no ad-libs and no attacking characters beloved by three generations of Americans. Now fight smart out there, and let’s win this thing.”
Now that would be a fight worth watching. It would be even better with reanimated versions of Burgess Meredith in each corner, rather than Stevens and Axelrod, but life is flawed.
And actually, as cornermen, Karl Rove and Rahm Emanuel would be pretty awesome.
Pictured above: Sylvester Stallone and Burgess Meredith, right, in "Rocky." (AP Photo, 1976)