A Presidential Debate Debrief {#3}

Last night was the second debate in the 2012 Presidential Election. It was a Town Hall formet where the candidates walk around freely and take questions from audience members. Yesterday, I talked about what question I would ask if I was there, and I invited others to post there’s as well (incidentally, that post got picked to be highlighted on the front page of WordPress.com, and so there’s a lot of lively discussion to join over there, if you’re interested). Anyway, as I’ve done for each debate, here are some of my thoughts (here are my thoughts on the first Presidential Debate and the Vice-Presidential debate):

  • I thought it was very sneaky of the candidates to wear ties with the color of the opposing party on them. How dare they try and confuse the voters like that! (I’m being sarcastic, I promise.)
  • Did Romney really take a question about gun control and start talking about pre-marital sex?
  • Romney: “Binders-full of women”?
  • Obama: “Gang-bangers”?
  • Did anyone else notice that both candidates’ wives were wearing dresses of the exact same shade of bright purplish-pink?
  • Relatedly, notice that when the debate ended, neither candidate shook hands with the other, but instead two very different things. Obama started shaking hands with the audience. Romney rushed over and brought his wife out. My thought? Romney wanted his wife’s bright pink dress to be seen first, so it looked like Michelle copied her rather than the other way around. These politicians are always thinking of appearance.
  • Candy Crowley had a list of all of the questions that the entire audience had, and she had control over which questions were asked. And so, I’m forced to ask myself: in a room full of 86 average Americans, were their really no questions that hadn’t already been beaten to death by the candidate’s talking points for weeks-on-end? Were there really no truly interesting or provocative questions that we genuinely don’t know the candidate’s answers to already? It’s hard for me to believe that the softballs Crowley through out were the most substantive available, and so I place the blame squarely at her feet for the lame questions.
  • Everyone keeps talking about how aggressive and angry this debate was. Several major news outlet’s analysis make the point of saying that it is apparent that thee two candidates don’t like each other. Once more, I blame Crowley and her weak questions for this. When you have such terrible low-ball questions, then the candidates feel more of a pressure to “perform” a certain way than to answer the question. They don’t need to think. They just need to go into auto-pilot on the answer and spend their real energy being aggressive and “tough” on the other candidate.
  • On a side-note: yes, the candidates got close to one another, raised their voices, and were very disrespectful, but no, political discourse is not necessarily more nasty now than it’s been. Congress has a full history of fist-fighting, and Thomas Jefferson pretty-much created the idea of media attack ads as he campaigned against John Adams. They had some pretty heated public exchanges in the media, as well as most of the other campaigning founding fathers. Last night, historically-speaking, was pretty darn calm and civil.
  • Yes, there were moments in the debate that got awkwardly-confrontational as they each called the other a liar, but notice what the most intense moments were about: oil drilling, tax plan math, Presidential stock investments, and the precise usage of the phrase “acts of terror”. Really? These are the most important moments of lying that a President can be questioned about? Whether we’ve been drilling for more or less oil in the last four years? I get that these are little windows into the honesty of the politician in question, but honestly, I’d rather a President not have a clear idea (or even lie) about his domestic oil production and still be honest about how many innocent civilians have died in his war-fighting, what the evidence was that he used to justify killing American citizens overseas (including their children), why he said he would be the most transparent President ever but has ended up being most aggressive in this respect than any other President in history, his abuses of executive power, or his many other atrocities. Call him to the carpet on all of that. I could care less about oil and pensions. But apparently Romney doesn’t care about dead children and lying government.
  • In reflecting on this most useless, shallow, and theatrical of debates I’ve ever seen, I ended the evening with this post on my Facebook wall, and so I’ll end this post on this somber note:

In the end, we get the politicians we deserve. Alexis de Tocqueville said “In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” At the end of the day, I can complain all I want, but we as a country create this environment where this type of politicking thrives. We keep watching the very news channels we complain about, we keep buying the same newspapers we think are disingenuous in their reporting, we stay silent when we hear of terrible things done in our country’s name, we keep voting for the same people we complain about, we keep buying from companies that pour our money into the lobbying we whine about, and we look at those hoping for something different and call them idealistic, silly, ineffective, and unrealistic. Like I said, we deserve these politicians.

[image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images from this article on NPR


7 thoughts on “A Presidential Debate Debrief {#3}

  1. Pingback: Town Hall Debate: what would your one question be? | the long way home

  2. I liked your re-cap of the debate. I watched 5 minutes, turned to Nature on PBS, and came back for the last 30-45 minutes. Seems like the candidates were less concerned about outlining their own policies and more concerned over bitch-slapping the opponent’s ideas. You are absolutely right, we get the politicians we deserve. I think I’m gonna move to Europe. I’m over it.


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