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:
“PRESIDENT FORD ASSISTED TO THE STAGE BY Tony Orlando”
“PRESIDENT FORD’S WARDROBE BY MISTAKE”
“COFFEE PROVIDED BY Joe DiMaggio”
“SPECIAL CUSHIONING FOR DOORWAYS AND STAIRS FROM AIR FORCE 1 INTO THEATRE By Foam Rubber City, Inc.”
“COIN FOR COIN TOSS PROVIDED BY UNITED STATES TREASURY — USE MONEY TODAY!” ]
[ open on Pong video screen, as Al Franken and Tom Davis speak from offscreen ]
Al Franken: Aw, nuts! It always seems like I fall behind at the beginning, and then I never catch up.
Tom Davis: Yeah, I know.
Al Franken: Well, there’s one, right through a hole.
Tom Davis: Hey, how’d you do on that Math Psy. quickie quiz today?
Al Franken: Oh, I passed.. I got a D-. How’d you do?
Tom Davis: I aced it.
Al Franken: You know, it always seems like you never study, and then you always get an A. How you do that?
Tom Davis: Well, you just tell the teacher what you know, not what you don’t know.
Al Franken: Well.. what do you mean? I don’t understand..
Tom Davis: Well, for example, on that barometer question, you remember, you’re given a barometer and you have to determine the height of a tall building?
Al Franken: Yeah.. I left that one blank. I forgot what a barometer is.
Tom Davis: Oh, well, that’s for measuring barometric pressure. So, to get the answer to that question, you get the barometric pressure then you go to the bottom of the building, and you take the difference between the two barometric pressures and you plug it into a formula.
Al Franken: [ pause ] Oh, yeah..
Tom Davis: Well, I forgot what the formula was, but I didn’t want Professor Heimitz to know, so I gave him several other solutions I figured out.
Al Franken: Oh, yeah?
Tom Davis: Yeah. I said, take the barometer up on top of the building, drop it off of the building, time how long it takes before it gets to the ground, and then plug it into that formula we learned in high school for falling bodies? You know, Distance = 16 x the time in seconds square? Remember all that?
Al Franken: [ pause ] Yeah..
Tom Davis: Or, I said, on a sunny day you can set up the barometer, measure the shadow of the building, and set up a ratio. You know how to get the answer there.
Al Franken: [ pause ] Yeah.
Tom Davis: Or, get this – get the circumference of the barometer, wrap string around it, then drop it off the top of the building, count how many revolutions the barometer makes before it hits the ground, then take the number of revolutions and multiply it times the circumference.
Al Franken: [ pause ] The.. the circumference?
Tom Davis: Right. Or, get this, this is the last one – I said, go in the basement, find the superintendent and offer to exchange the barometer for the information. How’s that? I got full credit on that question.
Al Franken: Well.. you should have.. you knew all the answers. [ as he loses at Pong ] Nuts!
Ernestine…..Lily Tomlin Technician in background…..Al Franken
Ernestine: A gracious hello. Here at the Phone Company, we handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth. So, we realize that, every so often, you can’t get an operator, or for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn’t make. We don’t care!
Watch this… [ she hits buttons maniacally ] We just lost Peoria.
You see, this phone system consists of a multibillion-dollar matrix of space age technology that is so sophisticated — [ she hits buttons with her elbows ] even we can’t handle it. But that’s your problem, isn’t it? So, the next time you complain about your phone service, why don’t you try using two Dixie cups with a string? We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.
Tom Schiller Chevy’s Telephone FallSummary: Because Chevy Chase is on medical leave after hurting himself during a fall on last week’s show, Gilda Radner plans to take the fall for him tonight. Chevy calls from his hospital room to to stop Gilda, and offers an alternative solution.
Norman Lear’s MonologueSummary: Norman Lear presents a video documentary that reveals how the actors on his sitcoms really feel about him.
Note: Bea Arthur and Bernadatte Peters would later host “SNL” in 1979 and 1981.
Bio: Norman Lear (1922-). Television writer/producer; his popular television productions include: “All in the Family” (1971-79) and its spin-off series “Maude” (1972-78), “Good Times” (1974-79), “The Jeffersons” (1975-85), “Archie Bunker’s Place” (1979-83).
Paid Political AnnouncementSummary: Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter (Dan Aykroyd) tells a crowd about the women he’s lusted after, and even flirts with a few new ones.
Boz Scaggs performs “Lowdown”Bio: Boz Scaggs (1944-). Singer/songwriter; participated in the first two albums by The Steve Miller Band, before securing a solo contract in 1968; released the album “Silk Degrees” in 1976.
The Snake-Handling O’SheasSummary: Writer #456 (Tom Schiller) sells Norman Lear on a new sitcom idea: members of the O’Shea Family, who are the last of Pittsburgh’s snakehandling family units.
Chevy’s GirlsSummary: Norman Lear performs a pratfall in honor of Chevy Chase’s absence during his hospitalization. Chevy’s Girls Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, and Jane Curtin sing a pop tune about wishisg that he were falling for them.
Jimmy Carter: Uh, hi there, everybody. It’s good to see your faces. Tonight I want to talk to you about a timeless Democratic tradition – sexual performance in the White House! [ smiles and salutes the crowd ] I am going to personally try to be a lusty, zesty kind of president, and follow.. [ winks at girl in the crowd ] Hi, baby. How are you? [ returns to speech ] ..and follow the lusty example of LBJ, JFK, and FDR. I want you to remember for a moment the love life of Harry Truman, and my guess is that his First Lady was one satisfied customer! [ makes kissing gestures to girls in the crowd ]
It is in my heart that I have commited adultery, and that God forgives me, and.. um.. I forgot to add when I said that, that I have worn women’s clothing.. [ pauses and smiles ] ..and I look very beautiful in it, too! I dont know why I said that, but I think that in the long run it will help me get elected!
You know, when stopping like this, I have had the opportunity to lust after a lot of women in America, and I have found that.. “East coast girls are really hip, I really dig the styles they wear..” [ pauses and smiles ] “..and the Northern girls, with the way they look, they keep me warm up there..” [ clicks along ] “I wish they all could be California girls!”
So far in my campaign, I have only fantisized. But now I actually look forward to some of the girls I’ve lusted after. Saucy vixens like Helena Kazan, Sheri Lewis, Phyliss Newman – actually, I’m not sure God ever forgave me for Phyliss Newman. But I want you to look at our Democratic figures – FDR, LBJ, JFK, Harry Truman – now, here were lusty, zesty men, seething with vital hormonal secretions. These were men of action. Doers. Democrats! As your president, I look forward to deeply satisfying each and every last one of you! God forgive us all! Thank you!
[ waves and salutes crowd ] [ dissolve to SUPER: “Democrats Do It” ] [ fade out ]
Norman Lear: As you all know, Chevy Chase isn’t here tonight. Wethought it might not matter. But as the week went on, I noticed somethingwas missing. I didn’t know quite what it was, but there was a lack.. a void.And no one, no one among us, could figure out what it was.. and I wasthinking.. [ pratfalls ] ..about it. And it’s quite possible that’s what itwas. Well, I feel better now, I hope you feel better too, Chevy.
[ dissolve to Chevy on the cover of Photoplay magazine, with Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner appearing over his shoulder ] [ zoom on the girls, then dissolve to them in the studio ]
Chevy’s Girls: [ singing ]“When he’s doing “Update”, my heart stands still. When he says that Franco’s still dead, I could die!”
Gilda Radner: “When he talks dirty on that phone, it’s like he’s talking to me. I go to pieces when he sneezes in his tie!”
Chevy’s Girls: “When he does Gerald Ford, you know I’m never bored. He says, “No problem”, but I wish that he could see.”
Laraine Newman: “There is a problem, mine, because I want him so. And if he takes me in his arms, there would be…”
Chevy’s Girls: “Chevy! Chevy, I love when you fall down! Each Saturday Night on my T.V. Oh, but Chevy, everytime you take that fall, I wish you that you falling, falling for me.
I know this shouldn’t be said, I wish his girlfriend were dead. Her tragic “accidental” death I scheme and plot!”
Jane Curtin: “So when in heaven we meet, I will be able to say…”
Chevy’s Girls: “‘Hi, I’m Mrs. Chevy Chase and you’re not!”
Chevy! Chevy, I love when you fall down! Each Saturday Night on my T.V.”
Laraine Newman: “Oh, but Chevy, everytime you take that fall..”
Chevy’s Girls: “I wish that you were falling…”
Laraine Newman: “Falling for me.”
Gilda Radner: One day, he came into my dressing room.
Jane and Laraine: Do tell!
Gilda Radner: He asked for a match, and I felt my heart swoon!
Jane and Laraine: Then what happened?
Gilda Radner: The show began, he turned around to go, and said goodbye…
Jane and Laraine: Oh no!
Gilda Radner: I asked him to stay, I thought I would die!
Jane and Laraine: Look out! Look out! Look out!
Gilda Radner: He crashed into a wall and there was nothing I could do about it.
Chevy’s Girls: “Chevy! Chevy, I love when you fall down! Each Saturday night on my T.V.”
Jane: “Oh, but Chevy, everytime you take that fall,” I wish that you were falling…
Chevy’s Girls: “Falling for me!”
[ dissolve back to the cover of Photoplay magazine ] [ dissolve to wide shot of the audience, zoom in on man with SUPER: “Mentally Undressing Self” ] [ fade ]