Now on Your Phone, It's the Lincoln-Douglas Debate: Read My Lips

The topic is slavery and popular sovereignty. You have 30 seconds.

MODERATOR: Welcome to the latest in a series of debates between Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephen Douglas. The first question will go to Mr. Lincoln. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

LINCOLN: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. There is much to discuss on the grave topic of slavery and America's founding principles, and I welcome this opportunity for a thorough airing of our views.

Stephen Douglas pointing to what kind of tree he would be.
Stephen Douglas pointing to what kind of tree he would be.
Photographer: Joseph Novak via Flickr. Used with permission under license by Creative Commons. (

But first let me thank the sponsors of this debate -- Facebook, YouTube, Vox, Quartz and the League of Women Voters. Is that last one right? Looks like a misprint.

Let me add that you have a magnificent park here, one that reminds me of the Indiana of my humble youth, the place where I learned the values of hard work and an honest buck, values I share with all those middle-class Americans who are looking not for a handout but for a hand up.

I invite all here in attendance, and those live-streaming the debate on their smartphones, to visit my website, You can sign up for text alerts, schedule a Meetup in your area and shop for Honest Abe hoodies, which I understand are very popular on college campuses among Young Whigs -- or what's left of them.

Did I answer your question?

MODERATOR: Not even close. Judge Douglas -- what kind of tree?

DOUGLAS: I take a back seat to nobody in my respect for, and roots in, the American working class. Unlike my opponent, who as a youth preferred reading to real labor, I spent time as a cabinetmaker before moving to the frontier, living off the land and becoming a Western man, with Western feelings, principles and interests.

Now what was the thing about a tree?

MODERATOR. Time's up. You two have debated before, and I'd like to explore these issues of slavery and popular sovereignty that form the major philosophical divide between you. Mr. Douglas, you first.

DOUGLAS: Thank you. In Galesburg, Mr. Lincoln said …

MODERATOR: Mr. Lincoln, your name was just mentioned. You have 30 seconds to respond.

LINCOLN: Invoking Galesburg suggests that Mr. Douglas …

MODERATOR: Mr. Douglas, 30 seconds to respond to your name being mentioned.

DOUGLAS: What Mr. Lincoln is saying …

MODERATOR: Mr. Lincoln, your rebuttal.

LINCOLN: With the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Judge Douglas made …

MODERATOR: Let's just move on. A question for Mr. Lincoln: You've been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. You've been a postmaster, a lawyer, a rail-splitter, and a captain in the militia. Why not slow down and at least finish what you start?

LINCOLN: Sir, that question illustrates why the American people don't trust the media. You're probably not even a registered voter in Illinois. Look at the questions you ask. What kind of tree? Seriously? Let's get down to the real issues, like where Judge Douglas stands on …

MODERATOR: Mr. Douglas, there he goes again. Thirty seconds to reply to Mr. Lincoln.

DOUGLAS: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.


Donald Trump's evolution on one important issue:

"Paul Singer represents amnesty and he represents illegal immigration pouring into the country." - Trump, Nov. 4

"I don't know who Paul Singer is." - Trump, Nov. 5


The problem with even considering nut -- eh, fringe candidates to the highest office in the land is what he or she might do, or be capable of doing. A lot of people seem to be forgetting that this time around, as if it's something that could be forgotten.

Ben Carson: “My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain. Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”

BuzzFeed published an unearthed YouTube video it says was a 1998 commencement speech in which the leading Republican candidate for president made this observation. By the way, he's talking about the many-colored-coat Joseph, not the father-of-Jesus Joseph.

“And when you look at the way that the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they would have to be that way for a reason," Carson said.

Let's not dwell on the fact that many big things are no longer around:

  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia: gone
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon: can't even find where they might have been
  • Temple of Artemis: gone
  • Mausoleum at Halicarnassus: destroyed by earthquakes
  • Colossus of Rhodes: destroyed by an earthquake
  • Lighthouse of Alexandria: destroyed by earthquakes
  • the Spectrum in Philadelphia: now the site of Xfinity Live

Yeah, big granaries could disappear "over the course of time."

Moving on.

Richard Oswald of Langdon, Missouri, describes himself as a fifth-generation farmer focusing on specialty corn and seed soybean. With his son, he said, he farms about 2,000 acres.

That's, like, a square mile, right?

"Actually, 640 acres is a square mile," he says.

About those hermetic seals: Stored grain needs air, he says.

So, Carson's explanation is kind of B.S.?

"Yeah, it is," Oswald says. "You need air. You need air flow." Grain bins are cylindrical today and they have a perforated floor and various air-flow technology, namely big fans.

"If the air stagnates, then the grain will heat," Oswald says. "Bugs like that. That's one of the reasons you want to keep grain the way we do today, because there are a lot of insects that come into that grain looking to make a living in there, and if you just leave them alone, they'll eat your grain up."

Maybe the ancient Egyptians knew this, and maybe not. Given the culture's utter reliance on grain, even using it as currency, and given that they were advanced enough to invent ink, paper (papyrus), calendars, timekeeping, ramps, levers, sailing ships, irrigation and a whole lot more, it's not really a leap to think they might have figured out how to store their grains without letting it rot or be devoured by pests.

Oh, look, they did.

"Seems like a really big waste of time and effort to build a structure like that out of stone, which must have taken an incredible effort, and then just use it to put grain in," the farmer observes.

Now, as for Carson's statement in the same speech that "various scientists have said" that aliens built the pyramids…

(Read My Lips is a column dedicated to the proposition that men and women in a position of power, or the pursuit of it, will say or do things for which they will be sorry.)

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