October 2nd, 2004


I'm glad to see so many of my peeps talking about the first debate, and to encourage the habit I'll chime in with my story. First off, I live in DC. I rode the metro down to the Capitol and the 3 hill bars: Capitol Lounge, Hawk & Dove, and The Pour House/PoliTiki. Congress is huge, and runs on an army of 20-something staffers, who are all afraid of illegal drugs, but happy to drink to oblivion. These 3 bars are spitting distance from the capitol, and are always full of low-level politicos.

I arrived at Capitol Lounge about 5 minutes into the debate, and was happy to find every tv was tuned to the debate. All eyes were glued to the screen and the brief conversations were hushed to ensure nothing was missed. Every seat was taken, so I ordered a drink, and found myself a corner with a view of a half dozen tvs. There were small cheers when either seemed to be doing particularly well. I'd guess it was 60% Bush supporters and 40% Kerry. None seemed too extreme.

By the 30 minute mark I noticed that one section of the room seemed to be doing a bit more cheering, and folks were mingling a bit. Still watching the debate, but as though they were in a bar,not a church. This is what I came looking for and I migrated in.

I had been skeptical of the debate format. The CPD, are not independent, they're bi-partisan, and controlled by the 2 parties. As a result 3rd party candidates are effectively locked out. I think a 3rd party voice would improve the content of the debates tremendously. But the format worked. I was pleased to see that the rebuttal format seemed to give a chance to respond, without cutting off the other speaker.

I tried to squeeze up to the bar to order another drink. Turns out the guy in front of me (had to be at least 6'8") is also trying to get a drink. I arrange to let him fight for the bartender's attention, in exchange I'll pay for the round.

In due time I was commenting on the debate with my tall friend. That extended to a half dozen other folks, and a half dozen more drinks. By the 60 minute mark the, a group of firefighters, who weren't watching the debate were getting a bit loud. The room tried to quiet them, but it was getting tougher as the debate carried on. By 70 minutes there was a dull roar, and actually hearing the debate became a bit difficult. At 90 minutes the debate ended. We were all into a rotating group debate, fueled by way too much alcohol.

Hill staffers are always 'on'. When the meet there is a brief dance, which begins by announcing who they work for. This is often enough to establish the pecking order. If not they continue to their specific responsibility. At this point they usually either exchange business cards, or in rare cases, walk away concluding this person is not useful. Now that no one had to be quiet, these dances began in earnest.

I continued talking to anyone who'd listen, and listening to anyone who'd talk. There was plenty of both. But I also kept drinking. By the end I suspect it was 8 or 9 stoli orange & sprites. Regardless none of them made it home. I still recall the moment I said to myself, "shit, I've crossed the line". Which is noteworthy, since I occassionally cross that line, but rarely realize it. At some point I left the bar. When is anybody's guess.

Metro had shutdown, and cabbies know how to recognize someone as drunk as I was. I walked for the nearest major road, and tried to flag a cab. Instead I ended up leaving my lunch (chili, there was a grand idea) directly across the street from the Capitol. A nice touch if I may say so.

Truth is I plan to do it all (well a bit less drink) again for the next debate. If anyone is down for the VPs on tues, or the second presidential on friday drop me a line.