The Politics of Dogs, A Comma That Counted, Losing a Double-Header, and Other Matters. Of Dwarfs and Giants

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Your correspondent claims to have at least tied the record for masochism on September 14. That was the night he sat glumly glued to the TV set, alternating between the Giants getting clobbered by the Bears on Monday Night Football and the laws of logic receiving equal treatment from the Seven Dwarfs in Chapel Hill. The latter event was already on tape (it had been shown Sunday on public television), meaning that it was all too possible to pause and verify the numerous dismay-engendering comments of the little men as they labored to look strong and presidential in a discussion limited to federal educational policy. A tough assignment, and and yet we still claim ours was tougher. For openers, the candidates were asked by moderator Jim Hunt (a Democrat and former Tarheel governor) just how they would go about improving education in the U.S. if they were prevented from spending more federal money on it. Paul Simon responded by quoting H. G. Wells in favor of education and doggedly declining to admit that his election might not mean more federal funds raining down on the schools. Albert Gore Jr. did gamely accept the moderator's premise and said the main thing a President could do about education was ''catalyze the formation of a national consensus.'' Wow. Joe Biden said he would spend as much time speaking about education as Reagan has spent talking up Star Wars. Wow. Jesse Jackson answered by obscurely analogizing between students in North Carolina years ago who had protested racial violence and students of presumably equal idealism who had protested the previous night against the ''economic and educational violence'' represented by Secretary of Education Bill Bennett. Ugh. But wait: Bruce Babbitt, if elected, would concentrate on ''parental involvement'' and getting parents ''to put that kid on their lap'' and read to him. Bruce omitted to say how his Administration would get the kids on the laps. Tax credits? The Giants scored but missed the point after touchdown. Zheesh. Back in Chapel Hill, Simon was making the point that in Japan teachers are paid the same as lawyers and doctors but forgetting to explain how he would arrange for this coincidence in the homeland. Richard Gephardt opined sagely that the country needed more research on teacher pay but Babbitt countered that in fact we didn't need research -- what we needed were people willing to act on teacher pay. Imagine that. Moderator Hunt, now amenable to letting money rain on the schools, asked Jesse whether he would provide more loot for good schools or for bad schools. Pathetic riposte: ''I would lift the quality of education for both.'' But Phil Simms is doing no better: Bears 31, Giants 13. Back to UNC, where Gephardt was making an especially depressing statement: He wants to be the kind of President who, just by the example he sets, will cause people to go into public service. Simon countered, ''The President can either appeal to the greed in us or the noble in us.'' Feeling cornered, we flipped back to the Giants, who were again missing an extra point. This much we know. They do strange things in Chapel Hill -- but the local team does not miss the extra point twice in a game.