Monday, November 03, 2014

The Not So Great Debate

I liveblogged for most of the Great Debate held last week at the UOG Field House. I’ve been to most of the Great Debates over the past decade and a half and it is a highlight of the election year. This time there was no primary debates, just the general election debate. The drama was heightened because it was circling in the media and the tilifon alaihai that Calvo was dodging Gutierrez by cancelling his appearance for a debate. Gutierrez with far less money and far less infrastructure was pushing out several different lines of attack against Calvo and this would be the chance for Calvo to push back and defend himself, his administration and his family.

Alas, the debate wasn’t that great. Gutierrez needed a crushing win and in truth, by my calculations Calvo came out ahead in the debate. There was definitely a contrast between the two candidates, but for most people they would have seen it as Calvo being prepared, composed and on message, while Gutierrez was off-beat, struggling to keep his composure and just far less prepared. To some who were more astute it was the difference between having the answers on note cards for you and speaking from the gut, but for the majority of people, these nuances probably wouldn’t mean anything or even be detected. Calvo did a much better job than his opponent.

I sat on the liveblog for about a week while I got busy with other things, but I still wanted to post parts of it here.


The middle of the Field House is for neutral parties, but soon after the formalities had begun it was overrun by eager Calvo-Tenorio supporters. The volunteers holding neutral signs, meant to protect this region and kept it a buffer zone for those who currently live without partisanship, had given up on their thankless job. Unable to stop the horde of white t-shirts with blue letters on them, they had let Helm’s Deep be overrun. Feeling very Ma’gas i Aniyu today and so this definitely feels like I’m part of the last alliance of Men and Elves against the infinite thralls of Sauron.

Reading the list of VIPs in the crowd is going on minute five. This time could surely be better spent if used by candidates to invoke bland and meaningless statements about God, family and how wonderful this island is.

There are clearly more CT supporters than GG supporters here. Gi minagahet, there may be more students volunteers here than GG supporters.

Romeo Carlos, gadfly from the Guamblog is here. I hope he gets a front row seat.  

No one seems more exhausted about the election season than the photographers who have to take pictures of these candidates. How many more photos can one take of people sitting.standing and talking into microphones without going atmario?

Idea for next election: Have candidates battle it out in the wrestling ring. This would allow them to still make empty, pointless, self-aggrandizing statements but at least there might be more substance.

Candidates are approaching the podiums. Opening statements. Here comes the dåggan-kissing.

Calvo’s starting salvo to counter the rumors that are out there: You are looking for corruption, but this isn’t a Gutierrez administration. Taking advantage of the fact that so many people associate Uncle Carl with GovGuam corruption.

Calvo, hits hard with a reference to the fact that he doesn’t intend to run for office again. Not like someone who happens to be on stage with him right this moment and who seems to be addicted to running for Governor.

Gumataotao breaks the invisible rope. Like a raging bull he rushes across the stage, his finger held forth in an accusatory manner. Gofabugao gui’! This will probably be the most interesting part of the whole debate tonight, but I’m sure people will be complaining that this isn’t appropriate or its taimamahlao or it isn’t the Guamanian way.

Both candidates invoked inafa’maolek. Gutierrez used both Tagalog and Chamorro in his intro as well as English. How depressing it is to have a monolingual governor in such a multilingual world.

Calvo and Gutierrez are running the island at completely different points in the island’s history. Gutierrez oversaw a frightening decline from the bubble economy days of Ada in the 1980s, Calvo has been enjoying the emergence from it.

Calvo just yelled out “RightDirection” after his answer. I hear my students say that for “Swag” after they present sometimes. Kao este hafa i manhoben ma fa’na’an “hashtagging?”

Calvo will be working to try to remind people about how things were under Carl back in the day. He has the clear advantage in the election, but it is interesting to consider how people, both who were there and who weren’t, will “remember” that time. I wonder how many people will realize that so much of what Calvo is trying to criticize Gutierrez for is actually from Felix Camacho. Carl Gutierrez was governor 12 years ago and yet Calvo tries to pretend that somehow he fixed the messes that Gutierrez left him?

Guiterrez accuses this administration of having no heart. “That is not the Chamorro way, the Filipino way, that is not the islander way.” I prefer this way of conceiving the island as opposed to the Guamanian muddle.

Calvo is right to remind people of Gutierrez’s management style. His popular legacy has been focused primarily on his helping people and reaching out to the marginal, but this is an important criticism, a reminder of the type of chief executive Gutierrez was. The question remains as to whether Gutierrez can make similar points against Calvo and illuminate any possible deficiencies to us.  

Ai matulaika i siniente: For two years all we got is complaints from Calvo about the Democrats in the Legislature and somehow now he is a model of bipartisan cooperation?

Calvo equates the bonds Gutierrez took out as Governor as “sins” that Calvo has since paid off. What a weird argument, doesn’t that mean that he has sinned quite a bit by taking out his own bonds and loans?

Guiterrez uses the word “fib.” I really wish he would say “dagi” or “dinagi” instead.

Calvo, is sitting pretty in this debate. Gutierrez needs to score major points, but so far he hasn’t. Calvo has given far better than he has gotten.

Calvo seems to really hope that people don’t realize that he has borrowed an incredible amount of money that we will struggle to pay back, when he keeps chiding Gutierrez for loans and bonds he has taken out in the past.

Calvo says what sounds like “decullenization” instead of decolonization. I definitely think the world is in need of less Edward Cullens.

Calvo: Whatever the status, whether it is statehood, independence or free association is better than the status we have now. Hunggan magahet ayu!

Gutierrez seems to understand political status issues more. But that doesn’t do him much good, because people in general don’t understand it. The more general rhetoric offered by Calvo will serve him much better in terms of connecting with a largely ignorant and apathetic public on this issue.  

Gutierrez criticizes the lack of meetings by the Commission on Decolonization. He mistakenly asserts that the commission hasn’t met, when in truth we’ve had plenty of meetings. Unfortunately due to lack of funding we haven’t done much yet, but all that will hopefully change next year when we finally get a modest budget to do educational campaigns.

The inevitable student tuition is asked. A staple of any event held at UOG/GCC organized by students.

UOG almost lost its accreditation due to interference by Gutierrez. This is why he doesn’t have a lot of love amongst the old faculty guard of UOG faculty. Many faculty whisper his name like the way people in the world of Harry Potter whisper “Voldemort.”

Calvo summing up Gutierrez’s record as governor: Sanctions, mismanagements and convictions.

Calvo clearly had much better research than Gutierrez. Calvo is hitting hard on Gutierrez’s record bringing out all these small little points which when taken together would really make you think twice about voting for someone like Carl Gutierrez.

Ray Tenorio’s answer on tourism was beautiful but didn’t really answer the question. He mentioned Fred Bordallo Jr., Mike Phillips, Ann Marie Arceo, Frank Lizama and Pilar Laguana. A great tapestry of people woven together to make a CT flag. Gary Gumataotao mocked Ray Tenorio’s lack of answering the question and then proceeded to not really answer the question either.  

Gumataotao just yelled out “taotao tano’!”

Tenorio is giving regular shout outs to his wife’s beautification task force. It is unfortunate because in a way it does highlight how little the Lieutenant Governor is expected to do, that he keeps bringing up his wife’s accomplishments.

Calvo is on a task force for Climate Change formed by Obama. This is good for Guam because Guam will soon be several affected by the climate changes and rising waters. But when I see the contrast between other Pacific Islander leaders on this issue and our Governor it makes me cringe. Other leaders are taking this seriously by acknowledging that the US is one of the biggest problems on this issue, I have yet to see Calvo take a similar obvious position. 

Ray Tenorio is showing himself to be strong and leaderly in his answers. Prepping the way for 2018. He is promising 42 more cops on the street by next year.

Gary Gumaotaotao is an angry old one liner machine. I think the debate should maybe just be him talking and getting angry at things. Jerry Seinfeld Gumataotao.

Gumataotao, Federal report says we are supposed to have more than 400 cops. He says we have around 300, and usually around 100 on the roads.

Gumataotao: I don’t know where you live Ray, but I live on Guam!

Gumataotao: Fire somebody and then follow the law!

I want Gary Gumataotao to do the reading for the Fault in Our Stars audiobook. I feel like I might actually like that book if Gary Gumataotao is reading it.

Calvo has made some really strong blows to Gutierrez and Uncle Carl just can’t recover. He is looking to show that Gutierrez governed like a dictator and this frankly was one of his biggest flaws as a leader.

Calvo deflects questions about a flaw in his political ideology. If my ideology had a flaw in it, it wouldn’t be my ideology. That is a terrible argument in any context. Not only does it not make sense, but it is actually quite irritating. Hayi taiisao yan tailinachi gi hilo’ tano’? Taya’. Si Yu’us Yu’us. I taotao taotao.

Getting pizza and cookies was infinitely more interesting than the debate. It took the length of two questions to get my snacks L

The size of the GG crowd seemed to shrink as the night went on, while the CT side seemed to expand.

Calvo’s conclusion was polished and well put together. He moved across different narrative points weaving them together. He had a perfect blend of divisiveness and also offering himself as a unifying leader. It hinged on him basically isolating Gutierrez from everyone else on the island and in history, and blaming him for almost every single problem that has existed in the past 20 years on Guam. Throughout the debate he built on this argument and it was something Gutierrez didn’t have the time or the ability to respond effectively to. Although it didn’t seem as cool since most of his answers seemed to be prepared ahead of time, it was a very good rhetorical strategy.

Gutierrez’s conclusion was heartfelt but you can see clearly the contrast in styles and preparation. Gutierrez made a single point in his conclusion, he hammered it home, even made it in several languages, but it paled in comparison to the Calvo rhetorical juggernaut.

Calvo definitely wins for being better prepared. He was on message and was able to mix in so many different small barbed mildly snarky attacks. Gutierrez was never able to really mount an offense, but actually spent most of the night on the defensive. Not a good spot for the underdog.

Thankfully I only counted Calvo using the word Guamanian twice. He may have used it more, but I may have just blocked it out. People who defend the use of that word really have no sense of history and are just seeking cheap political points. I fear for our people because every time Calvo uses the word “Guamanian” a Chamorro loses their identity.

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