I watched the presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney last week. I was thinking about writing an evocative, mesmerizing piece with lots of in depth analysis and thoughtful remarks. I even took notes for the first half hour, honest to God.

After thirty minutes of back and forth political twittering with both candidates talking over the moderator, my eyes glazed over and I fell into a stupor, reminding me of the scene in Ferris Bueller Day’s Off in which the teacher is going through the attendance sheet and calls out Ferris’s name calling, “Bueller, Bueller,” while the students stare into space. I remembered why I never pay much attention to politics or presidential campaigns: I don’t understand the rhetoric thrown about by politicians and I don’t understand this electoral vote versus popular vote thing. I didn’t even know what GOP stood for until college.

I came across this fantastic article in the newspaper El Pais which compiled together various clips of televised American presidential debates over the past 52 years. Did you know the first American televised presidential debates date back to 1960? The first two candidates to take the plunge into which back then must have been an exciting new format were John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

The first four videos were featured in El Pais but the last one I dug up on my own. I just had to include Sarah Palin.

1. Ronald Reagan  promises his advanced age won’t get in his way.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan was running against Walter Mondale who had been Vice-President while  Jimmy Carter was in office. A journalist from the Baltimore Sun pointed out to Reagan he was the oldest candidate to run back then and if his age wouldn’t slow him down when it came to dealing with grave international crises. Reagan answered with a resounding capital N-O and even turned the question into a joke.

 

2. Governor Michael Dukakis manages to keep his cool when asked if he would still be against the death penalty if his wife were murdered and raped.

In 1988, former Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts was running against then Vice-President George H. W. Bush, who ultimately won the election. He was asked by Bernard Shaw of CNN if he would support the death penalty if someone raped and murdered his wife. I didn’t even think these types of questions were allowed in debates and I can’t believe this one was approved. No one should have to even consider this kind of scenario! However to his credit, Michael Dukakis stayed calm and answered the question.

 

3. George H. W. Bush looks at his watch, bungles the answer to a question asked by an audience member, and makes Bill Clinton look really good.

In 1992, George H. W. Bush was up for reelection against Bill Clinton. During a debate, he very obviously looked at his watch right before a member of the audience asked him how the national debt had personally affected him. Bush didn’t hear the question right since he was too busy looking at his watch and floundered along, trying to pretend he didn’t understand the question. Clinton, who had been paying attention, then got up, approached the audience, looked directly at the woman who had asked the question, and gave a very eloquent and thoughtful answer. Clinton then went on to win the election.

 

4. “You’re no Jack Kennedy.”

During the 1988 vice-presidential debate, former Senator Lloyd Bentsen and former Senator Dan Quayle both went head to head. Quayle had been comparing himself to JFK because both he and JFK had served the same amount of time in Congress. Bentsen did not think the comparison was appropriate and proceeded to tell Quayle he was “no Jack Kennedy” (meaning John F. Kennedy). This caused the audience to applaud and cheer, while Quayle just stood there looking like he was about to burst into tears. Quayle did stick up for himself saying he did think the remark was “uncalled for.”

 

5. Sarah Palin is hilarious just by being herself.

I don’t think anybody has forgotten Sarah Palin. She gave SNL so much material work with, it doesn’t seem like they had to do all that much to make their skits funny. In 2008, she debated against the current Vice-President Joe Biden. Her answers were full of betchas, soccer moms, Joe Six Packs (someone clue me in to what that is, by the way?), Darn Right!, mavericks, nukular weapons, and doggone it. The way Palin expresses herself is rather endearing, but it makes me think of a schoolteacher. As a politician, she came across as very clueless. I also just love the way she asks Joe Biden if she can call him Joe as they shake hands before the beginning of the debate.

Just a reminder: tomorrow is the 2012 Vice-President Debate featuring current VP Joe Biden and the Republican Party’s nominee Paul Ryan. Here’s hoping we get some more incredible moments!

As an added bonus, here is a CollegeHumor parody video of a Mitt Romney impersonator dancing Gangnam Style, that new crazy song from South Korea:

P.S. Next post, we’ll be back in Provence!