The Big Payback

With this presidential debate, the highlights didn't come from Bush or Gore

But why quibble with comedians? Next up was South St. Louis' own Richard Gephardt. He rattled off several issues on which he and Nader agree and quickly added one on which they don't -- capital punishment. The man who likely will be the next Speaker of the House, and the man most likely to be mistaken for Howdy Doody, said not only that Nader should have been in the debate but that there should have been more debates.

But there weren't more or better debates, so for this last hurrah for one-on-one debates, any action that took place did so outside the barricades. The hecklers from afar ranged from the deadly serious to the wacky to a few who were deadly serious and wacky. Take, for example, the Mars Society. The Mars boosters made the scene for three of the four election debates, in St. Louis handing out pins saying "Mars or Bust" and talking about "terra-forming" Mars. "It will save this planet. It might be the only way to survive, to go to Mars," says Tom Chatterton, a self-described "Web master" for the society. "We have to be a two-planet society no matter what. It's time for us to get up and start going up -- get off this planet and start terra-forming other planets."

Appearing a bit wacky but with a more earthbound mission was Tracy Blevins, a college instructor with a doctorate in pharmacology. She was clad in a cotton-candy-pink wig, a two-piece dress with a feathered fringe and "Medical Marijuana Barbie" written across her bare midriff. "I came as Medical Marijuana Barbie in order to attempt to destigmatize the use of marijuana as medicine by presenting the idea of medical marijuana in a humorous and nonthreatening way. There's nothing threatening about Barbie, so I wanted to make the analogy that there is nothing threatening about medical marijuana, either." Blevins, a Wash. U. alumna, made the trek from San Marcos, Texas, on her own to promote marijuana's medicinal benefits. Her trip paid off -- she hung around after the debate and was invited to speak to the downtown convention of the National Conference of Drug Addiction and Criminal Behavior.

Outside Wash. U. on Oct. 17: It wasn't exactly Bloody Sunday.
Jennifer Silverberg
Outside Wash. U. on Oct. 17: It wasn't exactly Bloody Sunday.

Maybe Czech Radio's Olga Krupoverva had her finger on the pulse when, earlier in the day, on her way to one of Nader's stump speeches, she admitted she was having trouble getting airtime back in Prague because "it's hard to get people back home interested in this election." You said it, Olga.

OK, let's just assume that what so many political junkies are saying is true: Freeman Bosley Jr. is running for mayor again. When Short Cuts bumped into Freeman, he said he'd make an announcement, one way or another, after the November elections. It looks as if he'll run, and if he does, it will make for a more entertaining race than the current matchup of incumbent Clarence Harmon and challenger Aldermanic President Francis Slay.

Nobody in local politics lights up a room like the Boz, but, sad to say, this ain't 1993, when he won. You don't have Tom Villa in a blood feud with Tony Ribaudo, with the Boz above the fray, getting all of North St. Louis and a slice of the Central West End.

This time, Bosley could get into the race late and cheap, because he would be targeting his power base in North St. Louis and shooting for 34 percent of the city vote. But Slay comes from the vote-heavy 23rd Ward, which in 1997 cast 5,646 votes for Harmon, the third-highest ward total in the city. If Slay undercuts Harmon where the ex-police chief previously had done well and Bosley runs well, if not cleaning up, in North St. Louis, it would appear that a Bosley candidacy comes up short but virtually ensures Harmon's defeat. But maybe that's the point.

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