Tag Archives: Debate

“Mitt, you ignorant slut!” The question no one asked at Tuesday night’s debate.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the 1970s, CBS’ “60 Minutes” had a recurring segment during which two consummate journalists would briefly argue some issue. It was serious television that apparently caused the writers at “Saturday Night Live!” to wonder what these overly-civilized professionals really thought of each other. The result was SNL’s own late night “Point/Counterpoint,” starring Jane Curtain and Dan Aykroyd.

Here’s one of those SNL segments. Take a look. You’ll enjoy it. (Sorry, but you may have to sit through a brief commercial.)

By comparison to Tuesday night’s second debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the SNL skit seems tame, save perhaps only the colorful language, and certainly less troublesome.

I only wish I had been in the audience and that CNN’s Candy Crowley had called on me for a question.

“Mr. President,” I began, rising to my feet. “Governor Romney. Do either of you seriously believe that this contentious, in-your-face, confrontational, substance-poor ‘discussion,’ if I can call it that, of the most critical issues of our time demonstrates that either of you have the temperament, are mature enough to be our President and Leader of the Free World?”

I’ll leave it to you to speculate how the candidates might have answered. Me? I’m emailing Jane Curtain and Dan Aykroyd to check their party affiliations and availability in 2016. At least they’re funny.

-Next Contestant
(www.NextContestant.us is the political blog from the author of the WordFeeder.)


None of the Above

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I watched the debate last night. No surprises, not until after the debate which I’ll talk about in a moment.

Barack Obama was his usual endless stream of well spoken drivel, making promises after promises without regard to their feasibility or expense, some of his suggestions ludicrous, others outright dangerous. His rhetoric reeks of naiveté. Absent the requisite experience, he seems sometimes to have developed his programs from reading “Liberalism for Dummies.”

John McCain’s decades of experience have given far better instincts, but he’s not well spoken and his understanding of the economy too simple to be useful.

Neither candidate is acceptable. What is it about our political system that delivers candidates, and then Congressmen, Senators and Presidents, whose experience and skills are so substandard? We need the political version of one of those rulers painted on a stick that helps prevent people who are too short from riding the roller coaster. “If you don’t have at least the following qualifications, don’t bother to apply.” And those standards need to be high.

As for the highlight of the evening, for me it came after the debate during Katie Couric’s discussion which included the results of an instant poll of 516 so called “uncommitted” voters who were “either undecided about who to vote for or who say they could still change their minds.”* I have real questions about polling, particularly during this campaign. The issues are complex and rapidly changing. There are all sorts of newly registered voters. One of the candidates for President is black. One of the candidates for Vice President is a woman who may have some special appeal to working class voters. It’s only one poll. Who knows? But I thought these results were particularly interesting.

Who won the debate?
Obama: 40%, McCain: 26%, Tie: 34%

About each candidate separately,** to what extent do you believe he…

…would make the right decisions about the economy?
Obama: 68%, McCain 48%

…understands the needs and problems of people like you?
Obama: 80% (up from only 59% before the debate), McCain: 44%

…would make the right decisions about the war in Iraq?
Obama: 48%, McCain: 61%

…would bring about real change in the way things are done in Washington?
Obama: 63%, McCain: 38%

…answered the questions he was asked tonight?
Obama: 57%, McCain: 57%

Obama: 58%, McCain: 83% …What?!

No, those last numbers are not a typo. In almost every other category, with the exception of how they might handle the war in Iraq, Senator Obama has a significant lead, and yet 83% of these “uncommitted” voters believe Senator McCain is prepared to be President, versus only 58% who hold the same opinion of Senator Obama.

Not that this carefully selected sample of 516 voters is a perfect or even good indication of total voter thinking throughout our electorate, but they’re still real, cogent, logical people. How can there be so much more confidence in one candidate’s preparedness to be President, without a substantial majority being committed to that same candidate? In fact, these voters were asked one additional question:

If the 2008 presidential election were being held today would you vote for…?
Now Committed to Obama: 15%
Now Committed to McCain: 12%
Still Uncommitted: 72%

You know, I’m beginning to think this campaign doesn’t have anything to do with qualifications… to which many of you are no doubt saying “Duh?” as if I was the very last likely voter to figure that out. It’s about personality, isn’t it, about age, about party affiliation, but not about the experience and qualifications, at least not primarily. With all that we have at stake, this is the way our electorate thinks? Is this the way you would choose a surgeon to perform a life saving operation? Is it any wonder we so often nominate and elect the wrong people – and then have the audacity to blame them, and not ourselves, for how they mismanage our government?

*CBS Post-Debate Poll of Uncommitted Voters.
**Percentages will not add to 100.

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That was depressing.

“Something’s fundamentally wrong with our political process, and we need to fix it in a hurry.”
Saturday, September 27, 2008

I watched the debate last night hoping, in vain, that one of the candidates would surprise me, but that didn’t happen.

As usual, Senator Obama was overly self-assured, somehow confident that the endless array of objectives he has laid out for his Presidency can be accomplished without regard for their cost. His underlying assumption that he can control or significantly influence our economy, our society and the behavior of other countries is clearly naïve. Promises, promises. I’m not sure there’s anything we might want to do as a nation that he hasn’t promised, even though some of those commitments, such as balancing the budget, are clearly in conflict with others.

He’s inexperienced, and it shows. In the three years he’s been a US Senator, he’s done nothing to confirm his commitment to, or ability to effect the profound change he keeps talking about. I keep asking myself, “What’s he been waiting for?” The answer is that he’s waiting to be elected President. That’s the goal. He desperately wants to be elected President, and probably will. Then what?

Ironically, between the two of them, Senator McCain is the one who gets it. He’s experienced in the workings of our government, and in foreign policy and national security in particular. By comparison, Senator Obama has virtually no experience, period. He’s functionally an academic candidate offering us a textbook administration that sounds good on paper. As for his ability to deliver on any of this, it’s just something we’ll have to take on faith. Personally, I’m not inclined to risk our country and my family’s welfare to enable Barack Obama to realize his personal dream.

McCain’s not afraid, the way I sense Senator Obama might be beneath his almost boring veneer of calm, cool and collected. The extra almost quarter century Senator McCain has been alive and working in government service would give anyone a sense of reality that I respect. The problem is that he’s not, frankly, smart enough. His command of economic issues is poor. His vision, limited, no doubt by precisely the same experiences which make him so valuable in other respects. As a senior foreign policy, national security advisor, he’d be perfect. As a one term President, which is likely to be the case given his age, I’m not so sure.

Every four years, it seems, I find myself asking the same question. Is this the best our political system can offer us? Where is the professional manager, the senior executive who can balance a budget and cost-effectively deliver the programs we need? All I want is someone who can run the government like a highly profitable business, with the requisite creativity, compassion, leadership and relationship skills The Oval Office demands. What? Is that too much to ask, more than I have a right to expect from a single man or woman? Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know what got into me. It’s just that, every four years, I get the overwhelming feeling that we’re just going through the motions. There’s a sense of déjà vu I can’t shake.

Roughly half the electorate favors one of the candidates, plus or minus a couple of percentage points. The other half, the other candidate. Whatever your half, do you really think the other half is confused or stupid, that they’re overlooking some fundamental points that you find so obvious, but that they’re missing entirely? Of course not. (Maybe you do, but you shouldn’t.) So what does that tell you? That there are no real substantive differences between these candidates, only the pretence of substance. That the only thing that counts is style and chemistry. Does anyone out there who’s been around for a while really think who we elect is going to make any difference, and that we’re not going to be hearing the same arguments from people promising to solve the same problems four years from now?

What confidence do you have, after last night’s debate and from the other debate that’s ongoing in Washington about the financial sector crisis that may not even exist, in our government’s ability to do anything significant? Something’s fundamentally wrong with our political process, and we need to fix it in a hurry.

I need to stop typing and have lunch, preferably something with icing on it.

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Note to Barack Obama: Follow the leader. His name is “John McCain.”

“Senator Obama did what he does best: He’s remaining calm, seeking advice, forming a consensus, and waiting to see which way the political winds blow.”
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No less an authority on life than Woody Allen once observed that “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” Apparently Senator Obama never got the memo. Oh, he’s showed up to run for President alright, since he was 10 years old according to legend. Unfortunately, that qualifies him to be a candidate, but little else.

Today, in the midst of what our government tells us – but I don’t buy – is our greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, Senator McCain called Senator Obama to suggest a joint, non-partisan statement on the subject, and to recommend that Friday’s debate be postponed to allow them both to go to Washington where our Congressional leaders who are sincerely interested in being part of the solution belong.

Instead of agreeing to the postponement, Senator Obama did what he does best: He’s remaining calm, seeking advice, forming a consensus, and waiting to see which way the political winds blow. It’s good to be laid back, so I’ve heard. It’s not a something I have time to be. Too much to worry about, I guess. I don’t know about you, but I want a President who gets excited now and then, who feels my angst and maybe shows some occasional frustration in the face of a government that’s not even close to working.

It’s reassuring to know that Senator Obama talks to Congressional and Administration leaders over the phone as he explained at today’s press conference. That’s great. All he needs to run the government is a cell phone. Think of the all money we’ll save. And he told them if he’s needed in Washington, just let him know and he’ll be there. Translation: That’s campaign-speak for “I’m busy running for President. Wake me when the crisis is over.” Senator McCain is not waiting for anyone to call, and deserves credit for taking the initiative.

Was suggesting the postponement a political ploy, a desperate measure given his recent slipping in the polls? One poll shows him down by 10 points, but that’s unlikely. Others show him down by only two, within the margin of error. Sure. Maybe. I don’t know, nor do I care. What’s becoming apparent is that Senator McCain’s in the fight of his life, and so is our country. They’re a good match.

Now could someone please remind me which one of the two candidates is the old one?

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