Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Debate on the Debates

This is the first time in history that two sitting U.S. Senators have run against each other for the Presidency. So, no matter what they’ve learned about public speaking in the past, grandstanding is the only rule that either of them live by on a daily basis.

The Senate has never historically been the people’s chamber in either its temperament or organizational structure. It’s the chamber of the filibuster, non-pertinent amendments, six year terms and legislators who hang around well into their 80’s and 90’s. And its members have been directly elected for less than 100 years.

So when Sens. McCain and Obama attempt to occupy to the “people’s pulpit” in these debates, they never make it to the proper platform.

In lieu of speaking to voters, both candidates have been trying to be “right” rather than “good” in these debates. They’ve clashed on batting averages instead of judgment and temperament. Instead of debating the philosophies of the other candidate directly they’ve been talking about bloodless policies. The debates have suffered as a result and have reached a stalemate that favors Obama on clarity and speaking points solely.

These debates have become competing brainstorming sessions that just meander endlessly, the sole purpose of which is to vindicate either candidate instead of asserting themselves.

Americans aren’t so naïve that they want a President who’s right all the time. They want the person who will do what is best in a job where there are tough choices with consequences. If you’re afraid to talk directly and frankly about that level of responsibility to the only other person who can take that job away from you, how are you going to convince the rest of the country?

But they have one more chance to get it right. For the sake of a proper dialogue, let’s hope they deliver.

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