If You Didn't Watch the Fox/Google Debate ...

... you probably put two hours of your life to better use than I did. On the other hand, you'll be at the mercy of press reports that tell you that the best line of the night was Gary Johnson's (actually good) line that "my neighbor's dog" had created "more shovel-ready jobs" than the Obama Administration had. Unfair, yes, but a good line.

Or of clips remarking on the moment when the partisan audience booed a question from a soldier in Iraq ... because the soldier was gay. See below; the first 22 seconds are the heart of it. But if you watch another ten seconds you'll hear a truly droll assertion from Rick Santorum.

You have to wonder: is there such a thing as a party going too far? This is one of "our troops," whom politicians of all camps promise to "support." He is on duty in Iraq. And a crowd is booing him ... because he is gay? This is like booing black troops, because they were black, after Harry Truman ordered that the the military be desegregated in 1948. People who would have done that in those days were out-and-out bigots -- people who let color prejudice turn them against fellow Americans who were sacrificing on their behalf. And their successors who booed tonight?

So, yes, that's the ugliness that will last from this "Fox/Google" debate. (This whole event was not Google's finest moment.) But here's the line that truly deserves pondering upon: It came when each of the candidates was asked to suggest the ideal vice presidential candidate if he or she were the nominee. And Rick Perry -- who also said that he would "always err on the side of life," an interesting counterpoint to the cheers he got earlier for having overseen more executions than any other governor -- answered thus:

"I would like to take Herman Cain and mate him up with Newt Gingrich."

Reflect on that for a while. In all its ramifications.

And, good night.

(By the way: No one is in love with Mitt Romney, but he is moving smoothly toward being the nominee. And Rick Perry gave another reminder why he is a version of Michele Bachmann -- more executive experience, yes, but equally unready for big-time scrutiny. If anybody wants to bet on a President Rick Perry being sworn in on January 20, 2013, I'll take the action on the other side.)

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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