Friday, October 17, 2008

A confession: I didn't watch any of the debates -- and a suggestion for the future

And I'm not really sorry about it.

Everything I've read before and after each of the debates confirms my belief that, whatever revelatory value presidential debates may have had in the past, they are now so programmed and stultified that virtually nothing of consequence emerges from them.

Not like 1976 when Gerald Ford said Poland was a "free country." (Maybe he thought the Warsaw Pact referred to a treaty concluded at Warsaw, Indiana.) Or in 1984 when Ronald Reagan defused growing concern that he was getting too old for the job by quipping that he would not hold Walter Mondale's 'youth and inexperience' against him. Even Mondale laughed.

In the modern debate, though, with its pages and pages of protocol, nothing gets out that isn't pre-packaged or programmed. And McCain backers think their man wins and Obama backers think their man wins and various McCain and Obama backers pretend to be 'undecided' and repeat talking points that support their man to credulous media interviewers. (If you think I've missed something, tell me in a comment... and tell me what I missed and why I should have seen it.)

In the meantime, I propose a reform: Next time out, let's put a couple of cameras in a very small room. A small room with two chairs. Bolted to the floor. Put the candidates inside -- with no notes -- and lock the doors behind them. Don't let them out for 120 minutes and broadcast what happens.

The first half hour will be taken up with each candidate reciting his (or her) prepared stump speech, trying to recast it in Fireside Chat mode. Maybe the next half hour will be taken up with the candidates glowering at each other. But, I believe, eventually the candidates would have to talk, to each other and to the American people.

We might actually learn something about what makes each of them tick.

Because, really, what we should choose in a presidential election is not a candidate's platform, but his (or her) decision-making process. Events always seem to outstrip platforms. It's how a President reacts to these unforeseen circumstances that forms the basis of History's judgment.

8 comments:

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i have no idea why but i watched every word of each one. sick, huh? and nothing changed. i fear we are doomed...

smiles, bee
xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Linda said...

I could only watch the first two and decided there was no way on God's green earth I was going to watch these two fools go at each in the third.

I am completely and totally disgusted that we can't seem to find any real leaders in our country anymore. What happened to the Washingtons, the Adams, the Jeffersons, the Madisons, the Lincolns, and the Roosevelts of this country?

What happened to real leaders and real leadership? I swear, I'm moving to England or Canada ...

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A lot of people probably didn't.

Shelby said...

"let's put a couple of cameras in a very small room. A small room with two chairs. Bolted to the floor. Put the candidates inside -- with no notes -- and lock the doors behind them. Don't let them out for 120 minutes and broadcast what happens."

Yep, like it. I like it alot.

Mimi Lenox said...

Your peace globe from June 2008 has been placed in The Peace Globe Gallery.
You are officially peace globe #985.
BlogBlast For Peace ~ November 6, 2008 is going to be awesome! Please grab a badge and spread the word! Hope to see you there.

Amazing Gracie said...

Oh, you make such good sense! What has happened to "good sense." I'm afraid it's disappearing. I didn't watch any of the debates - they make me too nervous. I tend to yell a lot and it makes my dogs nervous, too.
~~~Blessings~~~

Ellee Seymour said...

We are all keenly following this in the UK too.

Curmudgeon, I don't know if you American readers can help, but I am helping a friend find people who saw The Beatles play live, or know people who did. It seems they played to more Americans than Brits:

http://elleeseymour.com/2008/10/20/did-you-see-the-beatles-live/

Ralph said...

These things aren't real debates at all, surely not in the Lincoln-Douglas mold anyway. The answers are merely pre-packaged...memorized only, no spontaneity. Style over substance, obviously...