I hate campaign debates

The 1992 presidential debate was a bit different: Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ross Perot.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Everyone I’ve talked to since Wednesday’s first presidential debate, regardless of political affiliation, seemed to agree  that Romney performed much better than the President, but remarked on the 90 minutes as “boring,” “truth took a holiday,” “lacking substantive questions,” “boring,” “nothing new,” “boring.” Want to weigh in on debate policy, structure, style? Here’s the link to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The thing is, while this debate may have been particularly deadly, I always hate them. “He said, she said” writ large, answers carefully pre-scripted by teams of handlers working for each of the candidates. Ugh.

In an NPR It’s All Politics blog post by Linton Weeks published just before the first debate, young people across the political spectrum were asked what they wanted to hear during the debate. Here’s the big (non-partisan) takeaway that hits the nail on the head regardless of your age:

…have the courage to be frank, to express genuine empathy of what (we) are going through as people in a tough economy, and to respect (our) intelligence as informed voters.”

President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate at the University of Denver on Wednesday.

In a story on NPR earlier this week (you can follow NPR’s coverage of the campaign here), a comparison was made between the 5-point plans of the two candidates. Turns out, their 5 points are almost identical, though how to deal with those points varies more or less depending upon the specific issue. Barack Obama’s top five: jobs and the economy; education; energy; health care; and national security. Mitt Romney’s top five: energy; skills training; deficit reduction; international trade; small business growth.

You might argue that, of course, their 5-point plans are similar: everyone agrees on what matters most. Not true. In an edgy (language advisory) blog post at Salon this morning, Andrew Leonard claims the five most important issues aren’t even being talked about during this campaign: climate change; Afghanistan; poverty; drone wars; gun control.

So, here’s your chance. What’s on your “5 most important issues” list?


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9 Comments on “I hate campaign debates”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    How about honesty and clarity on anything, something?
    How about the entire fantasy of leaders?
    I don’t want anyone leading me anywhere.
    The debate was boring. Nothing much was said except for Romney wanting to put Big Bird out of his misery. Maybe have him for Thanksgiving?

  2. Paul says:

    The most important thing about debates is seeing what they do on Saturday Night Live tonight.

  3. Gary says:

    I totally disagree with you Ellen. On the campaign trail they can say what they want and not be challenged. When debating face to face the story is different. Maybe not perfect, but better than the garbage spewed on the campaign trail. I also find it interesting that your comment came AFTER the debate and not before.

  4. Gary says:

    The question is not did the debate make a difference, but how much of a difference will it make? Democrats are very uneasy are afraid of what might happen in the upcoming debates. Personally I’d like to see the debates scheduled much earlier before the media gets a chance to put their spin on events. Let the people decide and not the media!

  5. Ellen Rocco says:

    Gary–Well, it’s been four years since the last presidential debates (which I mostly missed). I was genuinely curious to see how this one shaped up: Romney described as a talented debater, Obama as tending toward the pedantic. A good debate, to my mind, is between two sharp and incisive speakers who succinctly and effectively make their cases. As it turned out, last week’s debate was pretty much as expected: a sharp debater against a tired, somewhat unfocused opponent. That’s my opinion. I learned nothing new about either candidate’s positions on issues. Nothing. The moderator was asleep at the wheel. This may sound harsh but it’s my honest reaction. For me, it’s not about which candidate you support. I would rather have tv stations allocate a half hour to each candidate to address two or three core questions.

  6. No one likes the debates because they are pointless. You have the two corporate party candidates on stage merely mouthing the same talking points we’ve already heard dozens of times on the campaign trail. And the candidates who would actually add something substantive, the smaller party candidates, are always blacklisted from these “debates”… precisely they *would* challenge the major party candidates. Hence, they’re mostly pointless exercises.

  7. John Warren says:

    I agree with Brian – when the media and the public demand real debates between candidates who are not all beholden to the same monied interests, they will be worthwhile. Until then, they are simply commercials for corruption and incompetence.

    If PBS cared about democracy Jim Leher would have publicly refused to participate (publicly) unless at least ONE debate was held with the leading third party candidates. Jill Stein or Ron Paul would have easily beaten both Obama and Romney.

    It would be helpful if our own local media would start seriously covering politics beyond the corporate candidates. Of the 100 days of political coverage by this blog, what percentage has reflected the views of Greens or Libertarians? More space has been devoted to polls and the views of the reporter than to the legitimate views of actual candidates like Ron Paul or Jill Stein.

  8. Paul says:

    There are problems with the debate formats. But I would not say that “no one” likes them. Why would 60 million plus watch? Maybe they all don’t like it but can’t help themselves. I do think that is a good opportunity to show if you can handle yourself in front of that many people. I know I would fall apart.

  9. Gary says:

    Time to moth ball this post

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