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A Lawyer’s Guide To Getting Drunk During Tonight’s Presidential Debate

In a few hours, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will meet in Denver, Colorado, for the first of three presidential debates (though the second is a town hall debate; are those really “debates?”). As lawyers, you likely possess more than a passing interest in the events of the evening.

You are also Above the Law readers, which means you likely possess more than a passing interest in reckless self-destruction through the massive consumption of alcohol.

As a lawyer, drinker, and college debate coach who gets way too into these things, I have constructed a drinking game to shepherd you through the process of viewing tonight’s debate….

It’s legally themed, meaning it counts for CLE credit in 10 states (but not whichever one(s) you’re admitted in). Just think of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama as your talkative drinking buddies, and Jim Lehrer as your surly old bartender (“Want some rye?”), and enjoy.

Is this game perfect? Of course not. And that’s why I’m hoping commenters will suggest additional rules. We have to make this count, because the Nerd Olympics are only with us for three weeks every four years.

Grab your “Average Joe” beer (or “Average Mormon” Coke or Pepsi). Or relax with your sophisticated bottle (box?) of wine. Or prepare your douchebag specialty martini. Whatever poison you pick, you’ll hopefully be drunk by the time this is over.

Unless otherwise noted, take a sip whenever these come up:

Each new question — Tonight’s format features six 15-minute sessions based around a question each. At the start of each new session, you should salute everyone in the room (unless you’re drinking alone… like a champ!). No word on whether or not a politically themed “ring girl” will trot onstage with a placard to announce each new round. If there is one, it’ll probably be Madeleine Albright.

“Supreme Court nominations” — I was going to say “Supreme Court,” but if it comes up at all, it will come up over and over. That could cause a blackout, and we don’t want that.

Justice Scalia or Justice Roberts — Scalia could come up as Obama’s judicial “boogeyman” and Roberts could be mentioned for his decisive role in the health care decision.

Any other member of the federal judiciary — Finish your drink. The odds of this happening are remote, but if Judge Posner gets a shout-out, it’s worth the pain.

“Trial Lawyers” — This is the Frank Luntz-approved buzzword for hating on lawyers, so Mitt Romney may throw it around at some point.

Obama’s Harvard Law degree — Short of calling him a Kenyan Muslim, there’s nothing that can engender the hate of the average American (at least as Republican consultants perceive the “average American”) more than reminding the country that Obama is both a lawyer and was educated at snooty, elitist Harvard. What a snob!

Romney’s Harvard Law degreeFinish your drink. Lost in the shuffle this season is the fact that Mitt Romney also has a law degree from Fair Harvard. Indeed, Romney has blasted Obama’s Harvard education on the stump with no sense of irony.

Hugging Derrick Bell — Finish your drink. Open another. Pour a little out for Andrew Breitbart. Another angle on blasting Obama’s time at Harvard and a reminder of the late Andrew Breitbart’s ability to tout meaningless video clips as scandalous.

Dodd-Frank — For all of you working with the financial industry, keeping ahead of the new rules promulgated under this law probably makes you drink every day. Now the rest of us can share your experience.

Sarbanes-OxleyFinish your drink. Old school regulation, yo!

Citizens United — Oh yeah, drink up kids because Obama is sure to slip this one in from time to time.

The Obamacare decision — Health care is one of the six topics for tonight’s debate, so “Obamacare” will be mentioned a lot. That’s why you only drink if the decision is mentioned.

Look, I didn’t think Dred Scott was going to come up in a debate in 2004. That’s why you have this rule.

Any other Supreme Court decisionFinish your drink. Will this election even mention Roe v. Wade? Actually, that’s a good question to lay a $10,000 bet on.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio — Romney liked to mention “Sheriff Joe” as an immigration policy role model during the primaries. Now that Arpaio is better known as a birther conspiracy theorist and is being sued for civil rights violations, will he mention him again? Or will Obama tie Romney to the Sheriff?

Attorney General Eric Holder — There are so many reasons to bring up Holder. There’s his vague explanation of the administration’s drone use policy (“if we feel like it”), as well as his ongoing contempt hearings.

“Fast and Furious” gun walking operation — In a related move, take a drink when Romney calls out the bungled ATF/Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s Office operation handing guns to Mexican drug lords to track them… and then forgetting to track them.

“Fast and Furious” the movie — Finish your drink. Open another. Finish that one. Turn off the debate and watch XXX.

Okay, commenters, begin adding to this list!

Joe Patrice is the author of Recess Appointment, a blog about political rhetoric, and he’ll be dropping in occasionally to write about the intersection of law and politics. To answer the question that you’re probably about to ask, he got his J.D. at NYU and spent ten years working at a Biglaw firm and a white-collar defense boutique. His favorite word is sesquipedalian.

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