They’re Called ‘Debates’

Copyright © by Len Holman, 9/22/12


  Soon, on October 3 (significantly close to Halloween), the activity we call the “Presidential Debates” will begin.  There will be three for Romney and Obama and one for Ryan and Biden.  More than enough.  In fact, if it were up to me, I’d do away with them altogether because they are to voter information as the Mars expedition is to a fifty-seat shuttle flight to Baltimore.  What will happen is what always happens:  each candidate will give his set-speech talking points, despite the questions which are asked, and viewers with a very low tolerance for political theater will only tune in—if they do, if they’ve fed the cat, taken out the garbage, cleaned the toilet, and waxed the car—to see if any of the two makes a major mistake.  Other than that, there is no reason to watch them.  Unless.  Unless the rules get changed and the idea of informing the voters is really followed which, if the history of these things is any guide, is not bloody likely.  

  The Commission on Presidential Debates is currently co-chaired by a Republican and a Democrat—whose names are not important, but both of whom are consummate insiders.  The Commission has always trusted corporate funding to keep going, which is why the League of Women Voters is no longer organizing the thing.  The money that corporations put into the debates is a way of supporting a particular party—soft money it’s called—and the League couldn’t give a quid pro quo—so there was nothing in it for the big-money boys.  Does all this sound third-worldish?  Sleazy, dark, non-democratic?  Well, then you are either wearing a Ron Paul button, or you think democracy, as a general principle, deserves better. 

  There is always a call, from someone or some group, to “open” the debates.  Open debates are a joke, since, for example, third party candidate must meet a fifteen percent national polling standard.  In other words, only the two-party structure is “open.”  Why are there only going to be three presidential debates?  Is “three” some kind of magic number?  The Chinese probably wouldn’t think so.  And what about the moderator, who will pose the questions? Will Candy Crowley let a candidate slip questions, make a speech, go off subject, or wander in a jungle of misapplied metaphors and vague references to “facts” made up by the people who prepared the man for the debate?  What will the questions be?  Where will the questions come from?  Romney wants to talk about the economy and Obama wants to talk about what America will look like in his second term.  It is clear, however, that all these talking points will dissolve into a mist of accusations (no matter how indirect and subtle they may be), innuendo, false information, misinterpretation, and will leave the voters in just about the same place they were when they tuned in. 

  What will Romney’s explanations be of his comments on the “47 percent who don’t pay taxes” and his remarks about “self-deportation” and his saying it was a mistake to bail out the auto industry and his idea that we should bomb Iran back into the seventh century and then send in the Marines to shoot whoever is left?  Does Romney believe that the middle class is doing just fine and that a tax on the super rich is an insult to George Washington?  Will he be asked about his previous remarks and then asked to compare them to his present position on those same issues?  Does he really believe that the very wealthy should be given free rein, without regulations of any kind, to “create jobs?”  And will he be asked to explain where the hell all these job creators have been in the last four years if the economy is so bad?  Will he really “get tough” on China, which owns a large chunk of our debt?  And what does that mean, exactly?  How does his “program” contrast with Obama’s? 

  Romney is no great orator and I suspect, despite the weeks of prep he will get, that he will look like a cardboard cutout most of the time and a marionette with tangled strings the rest of the time, and two groups will notice.  One group—the one desperate to get Obama out of office and install God in the Oval Office (though with a separate desk and chair)—will ignore Romney’s sliding around issues, his re-statements of an opposite point of view, his awkwardness and crabbed view of what America is and could become, and the other group, who see Romney as Ryan’s puppet, as a man with no idea what the country is going through or how it got there, and will say, “See?  The guy is an arrogant idiot!”  In short, no one’s mind will change much, if at all.  The really interesting debate will be the Biden-Ryan one, where the congressman will explain why he lied about the closing of the GM plant, which began when Bush was President, and why he lied about that 714 billion dollars Obama will cut from Medicare and what he really wants to do about veteran’s benefits.   Will Obama be asked about the legality and morality of drone strikes?  Will he be asked about his plans for Iran and what will he say about the possibility that Israel will come out from the shade of America’s presence and bomb unilaterally?  Will anyone really care, except Ann Coulter, Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum, and all of Fox News?  I won’t.


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