The three presidential debates have come and gone. The candidates, and the pundits, have spoken. From the networks and the internet, we know what Paul Begala says, we know Bob Novak’s commentary and Bill O’Reilly’s spin. But what if a different sort of panel were assembled, one whose members could transcend their own deaths in order to be in the MSNBC studio. What if there were philosopher-pundits? (This is what happens when you’re reading Nietzsche the same time as the presidential debate). Okay, so Nietzsche wasn’t exactly a fan of democracy. Still, were he alive he would have watched the debates – if only to laugh. So lets imagine Friedrich Nietzsche as a guest on a cable news network, sitting with Chris Matthews immediately following the first Bush-Kerry debate….
Following the obligatory welcome and “thanks to be here,” the host asks Nietzsche for his general opinion on the evening’s debate. The philosopher smiles and responds: “I fully enjoyed the comedy. It is clear that neither of the candidates are great men. The ubermensch would never run for President.”
Asked his view on the respective performances of the candidates, Nietzsche laughs before answering. “Who can say who did well and who did badly? Accepting your definitions, however, both candidates had their moments. Each tried to seduce the audience with his language. Kerry, having a better hold of grammar, had the advantage. However, the President, sticking to his Iraq policy, showed strength in his obstinacy. As I’ve noted in one of my books, ‘Once the decision has been made, close your ear even to the best counterargument: sign of a strong character.’ Of course, I went on to say that this was also the sign of a ‘will to stupidity.’
As for Kerry, he was too hung up on the idea of ‘truth.’ He is misleading himself when he searches for the Truth. Who can know what truth is? One person’s weapons of mass destruction are another’s pistol. Kerry should not have expected absolute ‘truth’ from the President. Of course, for his part the President should have kept in mind that his truth is not absolute. Kerry is understandably bothered by Bush’s claim to absolute moral correctness. I’ve already noted that ‘no one lies as much as the indignant do.’ Furthermore, Bush, harping on Kerry’s changing ideas, does not allow for the multiplicity of the self. He sees Kerry as inconsistent, and sees this as a negative. But in life we are all flip-floppers. In general, all this talk of ‘character’ and ‘values’ is valueless.
Another of Kerry’s faults, however, is his belief in those ‘modern ideas.’ Equality – the fool! Bush is quite right in his realization that there will always be the elite. Yet he still professed his belief in a Christian God, before whom we are all supposedly equal. If only he would not deny his own hypocrisy! To be fair, both candidates referred to God at the end of the debate. They admitted, right then, that they cannot be leaders, as they themselves are led. I would have preferred the omission of God in their closing statements, since, after all, he is dead.”
Asked if he had any political ambitions of his own, Nietzsche says his will to power is personal, and it does not belong in the public sphere.
The interview over, Nietzsche is joined by his fellow (oh, how he shudders at that word) philosopher-pundits. They sit behind the cable-studio table, with their individual MSNBC mugs. All have water except for Hume, whose mug is filled with scotch. Opening the discussion, Plato complains that the debate was nothing compared to the form of the Debate, to which Nietzsche scoffs. Hobbes too is disappointed, lamenting that the debate wasn’t nasty, brutish or short enough. Freud then points out the revealing slip the President had made when he said Saddam instead of Osama; as for Kerry, the pause after he spoke of watching Bush’s daughters was most instructive. This leads Socrates to ask if anyone could have “won” the debate. Hume, who had watched the debate via television and not in person, wonders if the event had even taken place. Aristotle ignores him and shares his wish that the two candidates could be merged into the golden candidate. Kant, in all seriousness, asks if they had all considered what would happen if everyone ran for president. Nietzsche subsequently rolls his eyes. Suddenly, in a momentary fit of rage, Kant tugs on Nietzsche’s mustache, forgetting to ask himself what would happen if everyone tugged on everyone else’s mustache.
-Make sure to tune in to CNN on Election Day, when Nietzsche will be hosting both sides of Crossfire.