Washington - A major row has erupted between the Bush and Kerry campaigns over what coin denomination to use in the coin toss to determine which candidate will field the first question in the second and third presidential debates.
Despite having reached a 32-page agreement on the so-called "Rules of Engagement" for the debates, both campaigns admitted having overlooked the crucial coin-toss-coin-denomination question. In what political insiders are now referring to as "Coingate," both the Bush and Kerry camps are quickly trying to reach an agreement on the coin-toss matter.
The Kerry campaign yesterday released a statement announcing that its preference would be to use the John Kennedy dollar coin, which has not been minted for several years, as the deciding coin. "John Kennedy was a great American president," Kerry Campaign Manager Mary Beth Cahill told reporters at a press conference during which the statement was read. "And John Kerry will also make as great an American president who, incidentally, is tough and consistent not a flip-flopper."
There is no official word yet from the Bush campaign but a source close to the campaign has said that its preference is the American twenty-five-cent coin, commonly referred to as the "quarter," which features the likeness of America's first president, George Washington. Presidential Advisor, Richard Perle, a neo-conservative formerly with the Project for the New American Century, which made the case for regime change in Iraq a number of years before the invasion, has said "For the start of the new American century under President Bush, it is only appropriate that the coin used for the coin toss profiles another great George who became president."
The controversy surrounding the coin toss started at the first debate when a one-cent coin, the "penny," was used. Democrats immediately jumped on the choice of the penny as it features the likeness of the reknowned Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, over concerns that it could influence undecided voters to choose Republican candidate. In a heated verbal exchange between Democratic strategist, James Carville, and his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matilin, Carville told his wife,"That's a really cheap shot, Mary, choosing a penny." Matilin retorted with "Oh shut up, James, it was your turn today to pick up the kids, and where were you, huh?"
Senator Kerry's running mate, Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards, objected to the use of the one-cent coin for different reasons, declaring "Using a penny, you know, just cheapens the whole thing. Americans deserve more." When questioned by reporters as to his own coin preference, Edwards said that he personally had no objection to using any coin with a value greater than five cents with the exclusion of the smallest American coin, the ten-cent "dime," due to concerns that "It might blow away in the wind - along with the hopes and aspirations of Americas families as they struggle to get by day-to-day under the economic policies of this president."
Sitting on the sidelines of the debate, John McCain, a long-time enemy and short-time friend of President Bush, candidly told reporters "I don't see what the big deal is - I mean, the Kennedy dollar is a fine coin -- if you can find one -- and has, you know, has more heft than a quarter. It's not like Kerry wanted them to flip a French Franc or something … or did he?"
A government-appointed arbitrator is expected to be assigned to resolve this matter on Monday, whereupon representatives from both campaigns will be called for discussions. It is widely expected that the arbitrator will suggest using the John Kennedy dollar for one of the two remaining debates and the quarter for the other, which leaves the crucial question to decide being which debate will use one coin and which will use the other. Government representatives questioned on the matter refused to comment.
In a related story, the American Society to Preserve the Integrity of the Penny (ASPIP), whose mission statement is to "Preserve the standing, integrity, and value of the American one-cent coin" has released a statement lamenting, "The smallest of US currency is sadly again under attack; we indeed hope it recover from this latest brutal assault." Experts in US monetary policy have frequently expressed concerns that the penny has been losing popularity among the American public due to its declining value amidst progressive coin deflation.
Despite being out of circulation, the Kennedy dollar is still available from coin dealers nationwide, dispelling concerns that locating a Kennedy dollar would delay the second debate. The quarter is currently in circulation and widely available. The penny was first minted in 1912 and is composed largely of copper.