In the days leading up to the first presidential debate of this election, the Obama and Romney campaigns have been hard at work trying to lower expectations by praising their opponent's debating acumen while criticizing their own candidate's abilities.
It has been a strange week. I don't have the exact statements put out by each side, but as a service to our democracy I'll paraphrase them for you below.
The Romney camp fired the first shot. "Barack Obama is the most compelling public speaker since Abraham Lincoln. Anything short of the Gettysburg Address will be a significant failure to deliver on behalf of the president. Our candidate, on the other hand, can't order a cheeseburger without insulting somebody. Also, we're not sure he really speaks English."
The Obama campaign fired back. "Mitt Romney has sharpened his debating skills in the simmering intellectual crucible of the Republican primary debates in which he encountered candidates the likes of which Clarence Darrow and Henry Clay would pale in comparison. Having conquered that mountain of towering genius, Romney is at the top of his game."
Romney's people weren't about to take that one sitting down. "Are you kidding us? These guys couldn't remember the names of three federal agencies they wanted to eliminate. One of them talked about returning to the gold standard while another wanted moon colonies. Mitt could have won those debates by reciting the alphabet correctly. Which, by the way, he can't."
This really got the president's men's dander up. "Let's face it. Barack Obama is a cold fish. He makes Margaret Thatcher look like a chorus girl. If the president shows even the hint of making a human connection we'll have to count that as a huge victory for our guy."
Still, the Romney people were not to be outdone. "If our candidate can get through the night without counting his wife's luxury cars, talking about dancing horses or using the phrase "creative destruction" we'll be happy. Oh, for the love of God, please just let it be over!"
But the president's handlers had the last word. "Look, Barack Obama has really, really big ears. You can't listen to what he's saying because his ears are so distracting. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has the chiseled good looks of a Greek god and we expect he'll be much like Aristotle tonight. Anything less will be a disappointment for the American people. And also for the Greeks."
This is all very confusing. But don't worry. By Thursday they'll be back bashing one another, and all will be right with the world again.