If we’d had televised debates in 1789

After watching the laughable mockery that has been the last few Presidential “debates,” I have come to the conclusion that this country may not even have gotten started had they been around back then. Here is a hypothetical excerpt from the ABC Presidential Debates of 1789:

(Much of the text for Washington here comes from his first annual message to Congress, 8 January 1790)

ABC News: Decision 1789

Moderators: Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos

CG: Mr. Washington, we’ll begin with your opening remarks.

GW: Thank you. A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies. The proper establishment of the troops which may be deemed indispensable will be entitled–

CG: I’m sorry to cut you off there, Mr. Washington, but I feel you should answer a burning issue of great importance to the people: Are your teeth wooden or not?

GW: What?

CG: Your teeth, sir. We need a response to the rumors that your teeth are wooden.

GW: Well, I don’t see how that’s a “burning issue of great importance,” but if you must know, they’re not wooden at all. They’re ivory. Anyway, returning to my remarks, the interests of the United States require that our intercourse with other nations should be facilitated by such provisions as–

CG: Sir, will you please stop evading?

GW: How am I being evasive?

CG: We want you to respond to the core of the issue: is your refusal to wear wooden teeth a slap in the face of the logging workers?

GW: What? Why would it be? They’re just teeth.

CG: Sir, we need to know–

GW: I don’t know what good wooden teeth would be, anyway. Wouldn’t they rot?

(Continued beneath the fold.)

CG: Are you saying wood products are inferior?

GW: [Sighs] Um… Uniformity in the currency, weights, and measures of the United States is an object of great importance, and–

GS: Mr. Washington, on a related note, what about this cherry tree story that’s going around?

GW: What cherry tree story?

GS: The story that you chopped down a cherry tree when you were a kid.

GW: This is the first I’m hearing of it.

GS: Is it true, sir?

GW: No. Now, the advancement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures by all proper means–

GS: So you admit the story is fabricated?

GW: What do you mean, “admit”? I told you I’ve never heard it before now!

CG: Mr. Washington, did your campaign committee plant this story to appeal to logging workers?

GW: What is it with you and the logging workers???

Sir, this story is being spread around to illustrate your honesty. Now
you are saying this story is false; does this not mean your honesty is
no longer unimpugned?

GW: Uh, yes… I mean, no, it isn’t… uh, impugned, I mean. Look, is this still the opening remarks?

GS: We just want to get these issues cleared up.

GW: Issues? Of what possible relevance could they be?

GS: Sir, these are of great importance to–

I was the General who fought and won the Revolutionary War! I presided
over the Constitutional Convention! How is my honor or my honesty
impugned by untrue rumors?

GS: We need openness and transparency with the people, sir.

[Long pause] Anywho… there is nothing which can better deserve your
patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in
every country the surest basis of–

GS: What about Alexander Hamilton’s claim that you will hold the office of President for life?

[Deep breath]

CG: Sorry, your time’s up, sir. Now, on to the next candidate, John Adams.

JA: What? But I’m running for VICE President!

CG: No interrupting, sir. Now, about your defense of the British soldiers of the Boston Massacre…

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