SNL Transcripts: Lily Tomlin: 09/18/76: Debate ’76


 Saturday Night Live Transcripts

  Season 2: Episode 1

76a: Lily Tomlin / James Taylor

Debate ’76

Ruth Clusen…..Lily Tomlin
President Gerald R. Ford…..Chevy Chase
Jimmy Carter…..Dan Aykroyd
Tommie Bell…..Tom Davis
Liz Montgomery…..Jame Curtin
Tom Burke…..John Belushi
Earl Roland…..Garrett Morris

Announcer: Debate ’76. The three national networks join in broadcasting this special historic television event. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters. And now, here’s the moderator for tonight, Ruth Clusen.

Ruth Clusen: Good evening, this is Ruth Clusen of the League of Women Voters. Welcome to the first of three televised presidential debates between the Republican nominee, Gerald R. Ford…

[ Ford stumbles to his podium ]

…and his challenger, Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia, the Democratic nominee for President.

[ Carter appears at his podium and holds out a hand for Ford, who is busy primping himself. Once Carter withdraws, Ford suddenly turns to offer his hand and is dumbfounded that Carter is not paying attention to him. ]

Ruth Clusen: This first debate will be limited to a discussion of domestic issues, so let me introduce the three journalists who will be asking the questions: Liz
Now, at the request of President Ford, Mr. Tommie Bell, the senior linesman of the National Football League, will toss the coin to determine who will be asked the first question.

[ Tommie Bell, dressed in his linesman uniform appears ]

Tommie Bell: Call it! [ he tosses the coin ]

President Gerald R. Ford: I’ll take the side with the head on it.

Tommie Bell: Heads it is! The President will receive! [ he blows his whistle ]

Ruth Clusen: All right. Thank you, Mr. Bell. Ms. Montgomery?

Liz Montgomery: Mr. President, Governor Carter has accused you of hiding in the White House instead of going out and meeting the people. How do you answer this charge?

President Gerald R. Ford: Well now, Ms. Bankgomery… Ms. Mankgomery… Ms. Montgomery. This is, of course, a ridiculous misnomer. I, of course, was not hiding. I was simply lost for a bit… and the Secret Service recovered me, and now everything is just fine. Thank you.

Ruth Clusen: Mr. Burke, a question for Mr. Carter.

Tom Burke: Governor Carter, your son Chip has admitted to smoking marijuana. What is your attitude on the decriminalization of marijuana?

Jimmy Carter: Mr. Burke, as much as I love my son Chip, if I were to come upon him smoking marijuana, I would have to have him arrested. I would, however, grant him an executive pardon, but not until he had gone through the due process of the laws so that all of the questions could be answered to the American people. Now, um, this would be a pardon, not an amnesty. Amnesty would be condoning the smoking of marijuana, whereas this would just be forgiving him for using it.

Ruth Clusen: Mr. President, rebuttal?

President Gerald R. Ford: Oh, no, thank you, I’ve just had dinner.

Ruth Clusen: Sir. Sir. Sir, it is your turn to rebut on the answer that Mr. Carter has given about his son’s smoking dope.

President Gerald R. Ford: Well, now, I see no reason for name-calling here. I doubt very much that Mr. Carter’s son is dumber than my own son. I hesitate to call my son, Susan, a dope, so…

Ruth Clusen: Mr. Roland, any questions?

Earl Roland: Yeah, uh — which one of these guys is Ford?

Ruth Clusen: Ms. Montgomery?

Liz Montgomery: Governor Carter, you turned that question about marijuana around so that you could talk about pardons. Are you perhaps hoping to make some political gains by recalling the dirty laundry of Watergate?

Jimmy Carter: Um, no. No. Certainly, I could not benefit by reminding the American people that they were forever denied the full truth in the UGLIEST scandal in our nation’s history, when President Gerald R. Ford pardoned the first president ever to resign in disgrace, Richard M. Nixon. No, no, my friends, I’m not going to belabor the fact that Mr. Ford was appointed — not elected, but appointed — by the most corrupt president in the history of this great — [ buzzer sounds ]

Ruth Clusen: Governor, you have ten seconds to wrap this up.

Jimmy Carter: Well, I’d say no, Watergate, W-A-T-E-R-G-A-T-E, Watergate has no place in these debates!

Ruth Clusen: President Ford, you have two minutes to rebut.

President Gerald R. Ford: [ fumbling with his papers ] Yes, I would have to go along with Governor Carter on that. I see no reason to bring Watergate into this, and I would keep Watergate out of these, and not remind people of that.

Ruth Clusen: Next question. Mr. Roland.

Earl Roland: Uh, yeah — uh, Mr. Ford, uh — how do you and Mr. Carter differ on abortion… man?

President Gerald R. Ford: Of course, Mr. Ray-land… this is a very delicate and controversial subject — uh, issue — for the American people, and I have given a great deal of long, hard thought to this… both sides of what I think may well be the most sensitive issue in the campaign. [ a beat ] What was the question?

Earl Roland: Abortion, man!

President Gerald R. Ford: Well, as you know, I support a constitutional amendment allowing the states to decide their own abortion laws, Mr. Roland. This would allow a woman who wishes to have an abortion to move to another state — [ buzzer sounds ] Excuse me. [ he loks behind his back ]

Ruth Clusen: Mr. Carter. Rebuttal?

Jimmy Carter: Um, I think my stance on the abortion issue is perfectly ambiguous and ill-defined. I see no reason to elaborate any further.

Ruth Clusen: Ms. Montgomery, a question on economics?

Liz Montgomery: Yes. Mr. President, you said that the Humphrey-Hawkins bill will cost a possible sixty billion dollars. But isn’t it true that the jobs provided by the bill will create up to a hundred and fifty billion dollars in increased production — using Walter Heller’s figure that for every one percent unemployed, there is a resulting thirty-seven billion dollar loss in GNP. Now, at hte present rate of taxation on GNP of thirty-nine percent, doesn’t this come to about the same sixty billion dollars in increased revenue?

President Gerald R. Ford: [ sweating ] It was my understanding that there would be no math… during the debates. Now, I — I am prepared to answer any domestic, uh — questions. Perhaps you would like to know something about me and Betty? [ buzzer sounds ] Excuse me again, my fellow Americans.

Ruth Clusen: Mr. Burke?

Tom Burke: Thank you. Governor Carter, the President has accused you of flip-flopping on the issues. How do you feel about that?

Jimmy Carter: Uh-huh. I — I’ve never flip-flopped on any issues.

Tom Burke: Mr. Carter, uh, how about the Kelly matter? ne minute you said you, uh, would’ve fired him, and, the next, you said you may keep him on as the head of the FBI, if you became President.

Jimmy Carter: Uh, well… I believe, I believe you’re right there. I-I did flip-flop on that, uh, and I apologize for saying it. I’ve never flip-flopped on any issue, but this is the only time that I’ve ever flip-flopped.

Tom Burke: Well, what about the grain embargo, in which one minute you said you would impose a grain embargo, then you would never impose a grain embargo. And then, later, you said you would impose one in case of a national emergency. Isn’t that correct?

Jimmy Carter: Um — I-I-I believe you’re right again, Mr. Burke. I did flip-flop on that, and I apologize for saying that my only flip-flop was on the Kelly matter. Uh, but, uh… I-I’m flip-flopping this very moment on the issue of flip-flopping! And, uh, I honestly believe that, uh, by apologizing as quickly as I am right now, I’m saving myself the embarrassment that normally accompanies flip-flopping. [ buzzer sounds ]

Ruth Clusen: Mr. President, rebuttal?

President Gerald R. Ford: Yes. Let me just get some, uh, get some water — [ he reaches for the water pitcher, but dangles his microphone in the process, then lifts the pitcher to clumsily spill water everywhere ]

Jimmy Carter: Um — um, I think… I think there’s a, uh, certain technique involved here…

President Gerald R. Ford: Sorry.

Jimmy Carter: Mr. President…

President Gerald R. Ford: Well, clearly there aren’t any glasses, Governor.

Jimmy Carter: That’s just you…

[ Ford leans forward on his podium, until it begins to lurch over ]

Jimmy Carter: Look here, uh…

[ Ford’s podium crashes to the floor, as he tumbles over it ]

President Gerald R. Ford: No problem here!

[ Carter steps forward to assist Ford, but tumbles right on top of him ]

Ruth Clusen: Gentlemen… gentlemen… uh… [ she stands to address the audience ] Apparently, the President and Mr. Carter are, are, are unable to continue. Uh, please join us in two weeks for the second part of the Ford-Carter debate. Good night, and thank you.

[ credits scroll: “FORD-CARTER DEBATES SPONSORED BY The League of Women Voters, Mamie Eisenhower, Honorary Chairperson” ]

Announcer: Half of our contestants have been flown here by Georgia Airlines. The other half were flown by United States Government. The United States Government, makers of fine weapon control for thirty years. The League of Women’s Voters wardrobe furnished by Mr. Gerl. Stay tuned for “Chico and Son”.

[ further credits scroll includes:






SNL Transcripts

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Author: Don Roy King

Don Roy King has directed fourteen seasons of Saturday Night Live. That work has earned him ten Emmys and fourteen nominations. Additionally, he has been nominated for fifteen DGA Awards and won in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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4 years ago

Why’d you cut out the introduction of the journalists, hmm …?

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