J.B. Wolf

jb@jb-wolf.com


The Political Debate

Written by J.B. Wolf
www.jb-wolf.com
v 0.1


INT. AUDITORIUM

A large auditorium with television cameras positioned around the stage. On the stage, the three candidates stand behind lecterns with microphones, but the camera only shows the two major-party candidates. Facing the stage, the moderator sits at a desk with pages of notes and a microphone. Behind the moderator is the audience. The audience fills about one-fourth of the seats in the auditorium. Several of the audience members are texting. A few others are asleep.

The house lights dim. Over the stage, two neon signs blink "APPLAUSE" in large, red, capital letters. The audience responds with a smattering of unenthusiastic applause. The camera pans across the audience. At the end of one row, a sleeping person wakes up startled and utters a mild epithet.

LEECH

Hello and welcome to the presidential candidates' debate. My name is Correspondence Leech. You are watching the debate between Jimmy Reagan, the Republicrat candidate, and Ronald Carter, the Demopublican candidate. Tonight's format was designed...

ZERO

Excuse me, Mr. Leech. You forgot about me.

(Camera switches to two presidential candidates, then slowly pans back to include the third.)

LEECH

(Looks at his notes, then at the candidate.)

Uh, yes, I apologize. Thank you. We have a third candidate. Tonight's format was designed...

ZERO

Excuse me, Mr. Leech. Aren't you going to introduce me?

LEECH

Mr. Zero, please stop interrupting me. You're only a third party candidate.

(Zero tries to talk, but the microphone is turned off.)

LEECH

Tonight's format was designed with the input of the American people in mind. For that reason, we have brought in a random selection of the American population to be here with us and participate. At this time, we ask anyone not interested in voting to leave.

(Camera shows half the audience get up and leave. The auditorium seats are now mostly empty.)

LEECH

Gentlemen, welcome.

(Camera focuses on each of the three candidates in turn.)

REAGAN

It is great to be here.

CARTER

It is my pleasure.

ZERO

(Tries to say how happy he is to be here, but the microphone is still turned off. He looks perplexed and tries to work on it a little bit. Camera cuts back to Leech.)

LEECH

To ensure fairness, each candidate's time will be proportional to the amount of money he has raised and the amount of interest the news media have in them. Questions asked tonight by the audience have not been vetted in any way by the candidates, only by their campaign staffs. We now take our first question from the audience. Our first question is from Jane the Plumber. Ms. Plumber?

PLUMBER

Mr. Ronald Carter, what is your position on toilet paper? Three-ply or four?

CARTER

Excellent question. I believe 3-ply toilet tissue is the only way to go. Compared to 4-ply, it is more environmentally friendly and because itís cheaper to produce, helps Americans keep more money in their pocket.

LEECH

Mr. Jimmy Reagan?

REAGAN

It is a disgrace that Mr. Carter wants to destroy the American economy by not endorsing 4-ply toilet tissue. Mr. Carter says 3-ply would help the American worker, but in reality 3-ply is made by other countries.

LEECH

Are you referring to China or Mexico?

REAGAN

(Flips a coin.)

Mexico. Four-ply toilet is tissue is made right here in America. If you want to put money into the hands of Americans, then American-made 4-ply is the only way to go.

CARTER

Mr. Reagan apparently supports destroying the environment. In every roll of 4-ply toilet tissue, 33% more trees are destroyed than by the environmentally friendly 3-ply.

REAGAN

Which then gets transported across national lines by burning more carbon fuels. If Mr. Carter is truly worried about trees, then he should support my initiative to clear-cut as much forest land as possible. That eliminates the risk that trees will be harmed when it comes time to make 4-ply.

LEECH

Very sensible. I believe that Mr. Reagan wins on this point.

(Zero taps on his microphone.)

LEECH

One moment, Mr. Zero. It's not your turn yet.

CARTER

Thirty-three percent more trees compensates for the carbon debt incurred...

LEECH

That's fine, Mr. Carter. Don't beat it to death. Let's take another question from the audience about the toilet paper issue.

WIPER

How much additional money and medical training will the two of you mandate for the nurse when it is time for me to be wiped?

(Zero rolls his eyes.)

CARTER

Millions.

REAGAN

Billions.

CARTER

(Almost as if in a bidding war, Carter looks at Reagan nervously as Reagan outdoes him.)

Trillions!

REAGAN

(Reagan goes to engage in the bidding war, but then hesitates as he realizes he may have been outdone. He then looks off stage.)

What comes after trillion?

CARTER

(Carter realizes he has the advantage and seizes it.)

I will insist upon the very best toilets for every American and the best training for every nurse. Americans endure a lot of crap every day, from foreigners, jobs, their spouse of the opposite sex...

REAGAN

(Reaganís response occurs between Carterís phrases)

Or of the same sex...

(Zero taps his microphone while Reagan is speaking, but no sound is produced.)

CARTER

(Continues speaking without really pausing for the interruptions)

...from governmentally produced red tape, and even from other religions that should have been outlawed long ago. I promise you that in this land of freedom, I will increase government regulation until Americans take so much crap that they'll be begging for more.

REAGAN

If my esteemed colleague wants to give Americans a lot of crap, then 4-ply is the only tissue able to support his plan. Personally, I think we need to go the opposite direction. I will set a plan in motion (that will take effect after my presidency) where government regulations decrease. I am for reducing regulations so that Americans can truly make free choices: choices between the only two options that we in government have given you. I want to set Americans free: free to buy the car they want, free to vote with their wallets, and free to loot the nearest convenience store for the four-ply toilet paper that every real American truly cherishes.

(Zero frantically waves to get noticed. Leech sighs.)

LEECH

Yes, Mr. Zero. What is it now?

ZERO

I don't understand why American companies can't make both 3-ply and 4-ply toilet paper, then based on their needs, let every American choose which Ė

(Zero continues talking but can't be heard because his microphone has been turned off.)

LEECH

I'm sorry, Mr. Zero. You're way over time. Next question.

KIM

(Sung Kim is given the microphone. Sung Kim looks foreign, but speaks perfect English.)

Uh, hi. Yeah. I'm uh, Sung Kim and I'm a card-carrying member of the UTPW. I don't want to lose my job, you know, especially in this economy.

LEECH

Mr. Jimmy Reagan, would you address whatever question he's trying to ask?

REAGAN

Absolutely. Mr. Kim is in the Union of Toilet Paper Workers and wants to know what I as president would do to preserve his job. As president, I would travel all over the world visiting locations you can't even afford to dream about. While there, I will study their culture in great depth so that companies will invest here in America and open manufacturing plants here in America. I am a strong supporter of the UTPW because we agree that real American 4-ply toilet tissue can only be made here in America.

(Billy Ray Sherman jumps up and begins yelling. Billy Ray is near Sung Kim.)

SHERMAN

And what about the TPSA? I'm a card-carrying member of the TPSA!

REAGAN

The Toilet Paper Shipping Association?

SHERMAN

That's right! My name is Billy Ray Sherman and it's my job to ship 3-ply toilet tissue. This foreigner is taking jobs from me!

KIM

I'm a fourth-generation American.

SHERMAN

(Billy Ray Sherman spits tobacco on the floor.)

Yeah? My grandfather came here in 19-forty something and made me who I am today, so who's more American now?

KIM

(Sung Kim looks bewildered.)

UhÖ

SHERMAN

And you, Mr. Jimmy Reagan, are letting him steal jobs from me.

(Reagan tries to calm him down.)

REAGAN

Mr. Sherman, you have freedom of speech to say what you wish, but I'd also like to remind you that we do have drones ready to legally bomb your house. Now, I'd like to emphasize that there will be plenty of jobs making 4-ply tissue, and plenty of retraining so that everyone in America knows how to make it.

CARTER

No retraining is required for my plans. Even if 4-ply toilet tissue becomes standard, I would ensure that your job is safe. Toilet tissue made in California would be transported to Florida, while toilet tissue made in Florida would be transported to California. Making things up -- like job creation -- is what I do best. Mr. Jimmy Reagan wants to deregulate transportation. He doesn't want you to have a real job. He'd rather make your wife take a job as a greeter in Low-Mart and make your daughter marry someone of the same gender.

(Sherman suddenly looks interested in Reaganís position about his daughter having a relationship with another woman.)

KIM

So, Mr. Ronald Carter, what about my job?

CARTER

Mr. Kim, your job is safe as well. Even if 4-ply toilet tissue is not used by the American public, it's the only thing strong enough when U.S. foreign policy hits the fan.

(Sung Kim looks relieved.)

LEECH

Our next question deals with the American economy in general.

(A person with tattered clothes, a disheveled look, and a cardboard box in her hands stands up.)

HOMELESS PERSON

Mr. Ronald Carter, what will you do to help the homeless?

CARTER

The homeless are some of our most victimized citizens. I personally endorse keeping you safe by keeping you away from the real criminals of society Ė the 1%. We have many laws preventing that criminal filth from sleeping under the same bridge you do. Every day, I work very closely with the Box and Bridge Association to make sure you have a place a sleep. We will ensure there is plenty of space on our streets when hard working Americans become sick and are forced onto the streets because of health insurance premiums and deductibles.

SHERMAN

If you food-stamp lovin' Commies would go out and get a job, then you would be able to afford health care!

KIM

How did we suddenly get on health care? Are you talking to me or her?

SHERMAN

I'm talkin' to her, but you should quit your job to make space for a real American. You can go back to wherever it is you come from.

KIM

Pittsburgh?

SHERMAN

Yeah, and take all your kind with you back there!

LEECH

Mr. Sherman, you cannot continue to interrupt...

CARTER

Billy Ray's time can be taken from mine. I understand his legitimate concerns. As a nation, we are welcoming illegal foreigners into our country and they are taking precious minimum-wage jobs from hard-working Americans.

ZERO

Weren't you the one who just advocated sending jobs to Mexico?

(Leech walks to Zero's podium and cuts his microphone wire.)

CARTER

Mr. Jimmy Reagan wants to give jobs to foreigners so that Americans can't put food on their tables.

REAGAN

I'm advocating 4-ply to be made right in this country...

CARTER

... by allowing too many foreigners with work visas to come and make things like toilet tissue.

SHERMAN

Like those people from the country of Pittsburgh!

LEECH

All right, all right. I believe Mr. Jimmy Reagan needs to have a reply.

REAGAN

There is a shortage of Americans who are willing to work for the wages that 4-ply tissue paper offers. It's only natural that people from other countries who are willing to work for lower wages have an opportunity to come to this great country and make a life for themselves as our forefathers did. Work visa holders should have an opportunity to come here and work in freedom as indentured servants for trans-national corporations. That's as American as it gets.

LEECH

Like the Mexicans.

REAGAN

I see nothing wrong with getting the TPSA -- people like Billy Ray -- to transport willing Mexicans into this country to work. It would be a symbiotic relationship.

(A Mexican stands up and speaks in a Mexican accent.)

MEXICAN

Hey, so like the hot headed gringo would be helping my family? They'd have jobs because he drives them from Mexico to the United States?

REAGAN

Absolutely.

SHERMAN

And this Chalupa would be helping to give me a job because I'd be transporting him and his buddies?

REAGAN

As long as he supports me with his votes.

(Sherman and Mexican high five one another quite happy with the situation.)

CARTER

Excuse me, Billy Ray. I believe we had an agreement?

SHERMAN

Oh... yeah. Hold on.

(Sherman briefly consults a folder with a long, multi-page contract.)

SHERMAN

No, we don't. Page 26, paragraph 5. If a guaranteed job is promised by other candidate overriding the alluded job prospect given by an empty promise, said redneck can switch positions and cast his vote for the other candidate.

CARTER

I believe somewhere on Page 37, I have the option to force your employer to increase your current salary by 50% by threatening to fine him some kind of equal-opportunity violation?

(Sherman shoves the Mexican away forcefully. Zero walks over to another microphone by Carter or Reagan.)

ZERO

I'd like to point out that bribery is illegal.

(Leech indicates that Zero should be forcibly removed from the stage. Zero is then forcibly removed from the stage. Ronald Carter speaks to Zero as he is being carted off.)

CARTER

The law does not apply in this specific circumstance... nor in any other circumstances.

LEECH

We have another question from the audience.

DEBTOR

With all of our personal debt, how can we possibly pay off the debt we owe as a country?

(Reagan and Carter act as if the answer is obvious.)

REAGAN

Raise taxes.

CARTER

Print more money.

REAGAN AND CARTER

(In unison)

The usual.

DEBTOR

What about lowering taxes?

REAGAN

We could lower taxes too if you want, but we could only do that on the super-rich. That means incurring more debt over the long run.

CARTER

Which basically means we just print more money later on to pay off the debt.

REAGAN

(Turning to CARTER)

Want to throw him a bone?

CARTER

We could knock a couple of bucks off your taxes per pay check for a year or two if you want.

DEBTOR

Isn't printing more money like leveeing an extra tax on those who are trying to save money?

REAGAN

No, of course not. It's more like taking your money and giving it to someone else.

CARTER

When we add to the money supply, we only add it to the government piggy bank, not yours. That means the percentage of wealth you have compared to the government is lessened, then we generally distribute the extra money to the 1%, funneled through banks or large car companies.

(The debtor's mouth is left open due to shock. His eye twitches.)

LEECH

(Leech continues on as if nothing is out of the ordinary of the entire conversation.)

Our next question is about the recession we just exited.

RECESSION PERSON

Yes. Can you tell me the difference between a downturn, a recession, and a depression?

CARTER

A downturn is when your neighbor loses his job. A recession is when you lose your job. A depression is when economists lose their jobs.

RECESSION PERSON

It feels like a recession. I don't have a job.

KIM

(Raises his hand hesitantly.)

Downturn. I have a part-time job.

SHERMAN

(Via off camera.)

Commie!

MEXICAN

(Stands up briefly.)

Iím cool. I have a full-time job here, but with low wages and no benefits.

REAGAN

Let me explain why all of you are doing okay. To help American workers, we've adjusted the official definition of unemployment. People who are under-employed with part-time and low-wage jobs are not included in the definition of unemployment. That means fewer people are actually unemployed. Happy days are here again.

RECESSION PERSON

(Recession Person looks confused.)

Oh. Well, thatís ok then?

CARTER

I prefer to use another official, but lesser used definition of unemployment. It includes the underemployed and allows me to say that we are still in a recession.

MEXICAN

Even those like me with no benefits?

CARTER

Those employed full-time, especially illegal immigrants, don't count.

MEXICAN

Who said I was an illegal immigrant?

SHERMAN

Duh. You're Mexican.

MEXICAN

Hey! I'm the one who makes all-American 4-ply toilet paper right here in America. You, gringo, are the one who sneaks off to Mexico to consort with shady 3-ply dealers.

SHERMAN

Oh yeah? My grandfather came here in 19-forty somethingÖ

RECESSION PERSON

Yes, we know. You're a real American. Mr. Jimmy Reagan and Mr. Ronald Carter, does this mean you're using the same set of statistics to report different conclusions to the public?

REAGAN

Not if you look at it from a certain point of view.

CARTER

Absolutely, but not really.

MEXICAN

Man, Iím getting screwedÖ and not in the good way. I feel like Hispanics are way under-represented. Hey... how can I get more voting power compared to the redneck?

REAGAN

Listen, if an Austrian who can barely speak English can become governor of California, anything is possible. I can make you an empty promise to find some loophole to allow one extra vote per Mexican household. Would that work for you?

MEXICAN

But there's like 54 illegals in my house.

CARTER

(Carter begins to give a big speech as if it had a very important meaning.)

America is a nation of immigrants and Mexicans of all legal status are true...

REAGAN

Those are my lines.

(Carter gestures acquiescence.)

REAGAN

(Reagan gives the exact same speech Carter was about to give a moment before. He sounds exactly like Carter and acts like Carter even down to the body mannerisms.)

America is a nation of immigrants and Mexicans of all legal status are true Americans. You and your family braved hazards and distance and the American government to come here. If I'm elected to that government, I give you my word, my solemn promise, that I'll make it all worthwhile.

SHERMAN

Great! Next thing you know, the Canadians will want an illegal vote too.

(There is laughter from the back from the Canadian.)

CANADIAN

Are you kidding? You're screwing up your country just fine without us.

LEECH

All right... all right. Let's get back to the debate at hand. Next question.

BUBBLE PERSON

Mr. Jimmy Reagan, what are you doing about the up-coming education bubble?

REAGAN

Education bubble? I haven't heard about anything like an education bubble. I don't know what you're talking about.

CARTER

I promise to funnel trillions of dollars towards education!

REAGAN

I'll funnel quadrillions.

LEECH

Is that a real word?

REAGAN

(Looking proud of himself.)

Yes it is.

CARTER

I'll print so much money, only those in education will have money.

(Blank stares from audience.)

CARTER

Except for everyone else in America. We'll have programs to help them out, too.

(Audience nods their heads in agreement with some of them showing relief.)

LEECH

I believe we have a question about foreign affairs.

THE PATRIOT

(The Patriot is dressed in red, white, and blue garb. She is very obviously very pro-American with patriotic paraphernalia hanging off her body.)

How are we going to continue helping the world realize the benefits of being American?

LEECH

Mr. Ronald Carter?

CARTER

That's a complicated question with a simple answer. My sole focus will be the Middle East. We will succeed where history has shown persistent failure against a people that do not wish to be dominated. We will let freedom roll through the streets by sending our armed forces to dominate one country at a time. There will be a freedom of oil flowing to those nations that need petroleum the most.

(Carter gestures to himself indicating that America would get the petroleum.)

There will be a freedom of money so our dollars can be spent untracked in those countries under U.S. control. There will be freedom for people to govern themselves. My other sole focus will be to bring full democracy to the Chinese. We will continue to encourage U.S. companies to manufacture all of our everyday items in a communist country that embraces things that we value at our core: long working hours that cause depression and suicide, government corruption at every level, and underhanded tactics to silence those who disagree with the government. My third sole focus will be Europe. I will come down hard on our allies so that they know what we're made of and who they are truly dealing with.

DARFUR PERSON

If you're going to bring freedom to people so they can govern themselves, what about Darfur?

CARTER

(Carter looks perplexed.)

But they don't have anything we'd want to take.

LEECH

Mr. Jimmy Reagan, your response?

REAGAN

(Reagan jokes about China, but the underlying message is serious: he truly agrees with Carter that America is on the right path with China.)

The People's Republic of China is one of the few areas, I'm going to have to agree with Mr. Ronald Carter. After all, a little melamine and lead never hurt anyone.

(There is polite laughter from some of the audience members and Correspondence Leech.)

As far as our foreign policy in the Middle East, I feel our military should not "roll" through the streets of country after country. Foreign policy requires a light touch... like listening to promises of dictators and negotiating with them year after year after year after year. That's how change happens. I also don't understand Mr. Ronald Carter's position concerning Europe. Iíll give you three examples: 1) The British spent hundreds of millions of pounds to put cameras on every street corner when they have no effect on crime and a low return on prosecution. 2) The Australian citizens are forced by pay outrageous money for music and movies that the entertainment industry doesn't even allow them to rip to their electronic devices after they buy it. 3) Europe bailed out those banks by printing all that money. These are our allies. How could we not support them?

THE INVADER

So, if you had to do it all over again, you wouldn't use our military to roll into other countries like Afghanistan or Iraq?

REAGAN

Absolutely not. I would not use our ground forces for anything like that.

THE PATRIOT

What about the threat of Iran?

REAGAN

I wouldn't use ground forces on them either. That's what aircraft carriers and long range missiles are for.

THE INVADER

(The invader is surprised by the response)

You'd use missiles on Iran?

REAGAN

Not directly. We'd let Israel bomb Iran for us, but in places like Sudan and Libya... sure.

DEBTOR

The military cost us a lot of money. How on earth are we going to pay for all of this without raising taxes and without printing more money?

REAGAN

(Reagan looks nervously at Carter as he is unsure how to answer the question. Carter is a bit surprised by the question as well.)

Well... we don't actually print more money any longer. We usually just plug another zero or two into the financial computers.

CARTER

(Carter comes up with an idea. It's obvious the mental light bulb goes off.)

Instead of bringing home our troops and vehicles between countries, we could just let them stay over there and jump from one confrontation into the next. That would save us transportation cost.

REAGAN

(Reagan begins conversing with Carter.)

Ooo... that's a great idea. We could also let China produce our military vehicles. Not only will they do it cheaper, but we might be able to save transportation cost of new vehicles. Isn't China closer to the Middle East than we are?

CARTER

I think you're on to something. I'll have one of my campaign guys check out a map. Say, what's the fastest way to get our design specs to the Chinese companies?

REAGAN

I have some friends at the FBI who probably know some Chinese spies living right here in the U.S. who could get our designs over there quickly.

CARTER

I like it.

(The debtor face palms in disgust.)

SHERMAN

Hey! Are y'all talkin' about outsourcing my job in trucking?

MEXICAN

And my job and the jobs of my family?

REAGAN AND CARTER

(Speaking and moving in unison)

No!

(Sherman and Mexican are ok with that answer.)

LEECH

It's time for closing statements. Based on a coin toss, Mr. Jimmy Reagan goes first. I'd like to remind both candidates that neither of you have insulted Europe yet.

REAGAN

Thank you, Mr. Leech. I'd also like to thank my lovely wife for her support and I'd like to thank God for this opportunity to be here instead of hungry in the streets. First of all, I'd like to say how great America is. Iím proud to be an American because just like you, Iím begging for a job. America is so great, our greatness overshadows every other country in the world including Europe.

Tonight, I have brought to you my plans that will transform America: how 4-ply toilet paper will bring prosperity back to America, how more workers from abroad will revitalize the American economy, and how the best bureaucratic methods our allies have to offer will free up our economy. If I'm elected president, poverty, hunger, homelessness, will all be magically washed away. Everyone will be rich, eating from solid gold bowls, and driving the biggest vehicles that car lots have to offer. I will work every single day to ensure that no one will have to worry about money again by starting at the top and working my way down. Thank you. Thank you and God bless, but only if you're Christian.

LEECH

Mr. Ronald Carter?

CARTER

I'd like to thank Mr Leech, my wife, the Christian God that I pretend to pray to every Sunday in that church to go to, and Muslim extremists for not being offended by anything I've said tonight. I'm excited by the potential to make our great nation even greater, the potential to expand our influence around the world, and for the opportunity to bring peace and prosperity everywhere including third world nations like Greece, Spain, and Germany. America is absolutely the greatest country in the world. We have the best toilet paper in the world. We have the best health care system in the world. We produce the most hot air in the world. America is so great, that we can even reverse the decline of the dollar simply by willing it to be better instead of actually having our Congressmen do something.

If I'm elected, everyone will have vouchers to eat at McDonald's and Burger King so no one will be hungry. I'll make our debts go away. I'll make your debts go away. I'll even solve the obesity problem by forcing the pharmaceutical companies to come up with a magic diet pill. Finally, I want to say that everyone should vote for me because I have the last word in this debate. Peace!

LEECH

Thank you gentlemen. I encourage everyone in America to now go out and...

(Zero runs across the stage, pursued by security guards. Two of the guards tackle him. Leech keeps talking without missing a beat. He pretends not to notice Zero.)

...vote for either of these wonderfully qualified candidates. Thank you, gentlemen.

REAGAN

Thank you.

CARTER

Thank you.