Debatable Facts

In 5th grade, John Chapman nearly won the Wood Acres Elementary School election after promising to add Coca Cola, Diet Coke and Sprite to the drinking fountains. Jeff Luse won the student government presidency instead when he promised to bring Cal Ripken to school. Cal, it should be noted, never made that visit.

This Spring, I watched as Spain’s José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy argued for 10 minutes in a Presidential debate over a chart that showed some sort of correlation between potatoes and prices in Spain. The chart, however, was unlabeled, so it was unclear whether it was showing the change in potato prices in relation to time or something else, like the number of goals scored by Fernando Torres on Wednesdays during a full moon. So the two men yelled at each other over this chart, without anyone being sure exactly whether or not prices were going up or down, or even when these prices had changed. The debate was hailed the next day as a major step forward for Spain’s still-growing democracy, but I’m still waiting to see Zapatero’s first measures on the potato problem in his country.

Tonight’s debate reminds me again that while debates really can be a positive step forward for democracy, it’s almost impossible to keep up with all of the facts/less-than-facts referenced in such a format. It’s tough to judge these things until these guys take a closer look at what was said tonight.

Of course, I wouldn’t expect the networks to wait quite so long to make their call on who won.