Rules to keep the debates moving

Posted: Apr 26, 2007 2:41 PM

Pity Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama.

With 973 Democratic candidates jammed onto a small stage tonight, there will little chance for either of the frontrunners to “win” this first presidential debate. But with a gaggle of pundits and talking heads hiding behind every palmetto tree, expect either Hillary or Barrack to be declared the big, fat loser. Somehow, someway, some pundit will decide that one of these senators failed to meet the high expectations placed upon them--most likely--by the same pundits calling them failures.

The biggest challenge for tonight’s big stars is the fact there will be scores of candidates fighting for their second in the sun. It doesn’t help that the guy from Alaska nobody knows will get as much time as senators Clinton and Obama.

MSNBC understands that jamming so many candidates on stage will present great logistical issues. Fortunately, we have been forward-thinking enough to establish ground rules to expedite the process:

  • The candidates will not be allowed to deliver an opening or closing statement.
  • Candidates may introduce themselves but may only use their first or last name.
  • At Pat Buchanan’s request, Mr. Obama will be permitted use his middle name during introductions.
  • When discussing George Bush, candidates are encouraged to use sign language to expedite their viewpoints. One finger supports censure, two fingers endorse impeachment, and three fingers embrace the Alec Baldwin position (pronounced before a shocked Conan audience) of dragging all Republicans from their homes and stoning them “until they die.”
  • Joe Biden will be surrounded by stagehands with stun guns at all times. Any filibuster attempts will be met with appropriate force.
  • Any candidate who can name the guy on stage from Alaska without first reading his name tag will be award an addition 14 seconds.
  • No candidate answer can be longer than the average length of a question asked on Scarborough Country.
  • In post-game analysis, Chris Matthews will not be allowed to answer his own questions before giving candidates a shot first.
  • Even with MSNBC taking these precautions, very little of substance will be debated tonight in South Carolina. Still, Americans will get a chance to see Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton share the stage for the first time. That alone will worth the price of admission.