Dave Barry goes searching for protesters on the campaign trail
I watched the Republican debate in the press facility here, and it was excellent. I don’t mean the debate was excellent; I mean the press facility was. I’ve been coming to the New Hampshire primaries since 1984, and back then WARNING WARNING OLD-FART RANT AHEAD the press would be jammed into some dingy back room and fed surplus baloney sandwiches left over from the Korean Conflict. Also we did not have the Internet, so when we needed facts, we had to make them up manually.
Things have totally changed. For this debate they put the press in a huge, super-modern, high-tech media center sponsored by Google. There were big screens everywhere with up-to-the-minute graphical displays on what American voters were searching for most on Google. The answer, of course, is: porn.
No, they didn’t display that on the screens, unfortunately. But they did have delicious and plentiful snacks, food and beverages, all free, as well as swag items such as blankets and mittens that you could help yourself to. Fortunately we in the news media are professionals with high ethical standards, so all this pampering will in no way affect our objective coverage of Google, which is the finest organization of any kind in human history and we should let them do whatever they want, including putting chips in our brains.
Before the debate began I hiked to the Designated Protest Zone, a lonely, fenced-off snow-covered plot maybe a mile from the debate site. This is where people go to exercise their constitutional right to stand around waving signs and shouting. Technically, they can do this anywhere, but I think people prefer to do it in the Designated Protest Zone because other people are also doing it there, so you don’t look quite as stupid.
When I arrived there were maybe 200 people in the Protest Zone. I saw a few KASICH and CHRISTIE signs, but the biggest group was Ted Cruz supporters. Their leader was a very peppy woman named Nancy Kindler, who was directing them to shout chants that she had on a handwritten list of authorized Ted Cruz chants, including “SPREAD THE NEWS! WE WANT CRUZ!” and “WE’RE CHOOSIN’ TO GO CRUZIN’!” One man suggested that they try “IF YOU’RE NOT WITH TED, YOU’RE OUT OF YOUR HEAD!” But Kindler rejected this, because it was not on her authorized list. When the stakes are this high, you can’t afford to make a tactical mistake.
By the time I got back to the media center it was packed with hundreds and hundreds of people hunched over their laptops. Many of them would spend the entire debate generating tweets, which would be instantly transmitted, via the miracle of the Internet, to outer space, and then back to other people in the media center, who would then retweet them to still other people in the media center. In the old days we used to write actual stories for the newspaper, which for the benefit of you youngsters was a paper with news on it, but now ABORT ABORT OLD-FART RANT ABORT.
As for the debate itself: The high point, without question, was the introduction of the candidates, in which the process of getting seven guys to walk out onto a stage in a specific order somehow became more complicated than the Normandy invasion. Seriously, watch the video on YouTube. It was like a show called “Those Wacky Republicans,” where you never knew who was going to come out from behind the curtain next. I would not have been surprised to see William Shatner.
After that it was pretty much downhill. The big loser in the debate, according to the pundits, was Marco Rubio, who got this one talking point lodged in his throat and kept saying it over and over, unable to stop himself, until finally Dr. Ben Carson gave him the Heimlich maneuver, sending the talking point flopping onto the stage, where Chris Christie stomped on it.
Anyway, it appears that the Republican race is tightening, which means it could go on for a while; the same is true for the Democrats. This is good! It’s a big decision we have to make, as a nation: Who should lead us into the future?
I’ve thought a lot about this question, objectively, and I think I know the answer: Google. Really. This chip does not hurt at ALL.