Thursday, September 30, 2004

 

Blah, Blah, Blah

Are presidential debates ever “won”?

[Politics]

It’s so great to have a blog, especially since I’d rather stick my head in the oven than listen to the pundits explain who “won” the debate. Post debate discussions crystallize our hypocritical political churchgoing pieties: we bow toward the pulpit and intone that we care about the issues while we furtively flip through the People magazine hidden away in the prayerbook and snicker about “Kerry’s New Tan” or Bush’s uncanny resemblance to Alfred E. Newman.

The very idea of someone winning a presidential debate is a myth that dates back to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate, which supposedly changed the complexion of that election (pun intended – give me a sec). Recall that Kennedy “won” because Nixon was discovered to have a very uncomely five-o’clock shadow that contrasted poorly with Kennedy’s telegenic looks. There have been only two other “significant” presidential debate moments in the last 10 presidential election cycles – Mondale’s widely-acknowledged 1984 trouncing of Reagan, who by all accounts appeared to be dazed, doped and somehow propped up by invisible wires, and look at what good “winning” that debate did Mondale; and Dukakis being taken aback when the First Amendment Watchdog representative of the press asked him that great softball hypothetical question, “What would you do if your wife were raped?” Dukakis was well behind in the polls, and stayed behind. Anyone who claims there have been other “important” moments in presidential debates is giving you a line of BS.

The idea of a presidential debate seems based on two premises, both of which are flawed and bound to make the event a disappointment. One is the idea that, after months of campaigning like two ships passing in the night – and firing wild salvos at each other, at long-distance – the candidates finally get on the same stage and face each other over the same questions. The hope is for a direct clash of ideas, but inevitably one gets only an alternative succession of monologues, too brief to allow for much meaningful exploration of issues. The other is the idea that public speaking is important to the presidency.

Public speaking ability is perhaps somewhat correlated with mental abilities that themselves may be correlated with qualities – like judgment – that we look for in a president. But how correlated? Unless they are truly mezmerized by their own spin, Bush supporters have to recognize that their man is a poor public speaker. The Bush I saw is the same Bush I saw in the 2000 election and throughout his presidency. As far as I can tell he is a man of average intelligence and below-average speaking ability for a public official, who seems to have less-than-adequate comprehension of the serious and complex issues for which his administration is responsible. I suspect that while he formally makes final decisions as President, that he rarely initiates policy and on most issues he simply follows strong recommendations from trusted advisors.

The Republicans proved with Ronald Reagan that the country can survive with a spokesmodel for a president. Ronald Reagan may have been even less intelligent than Bush, but he was a trained actor and could memorize and deliver lines. Bush really can’t, but somehow it seems that somewhere near half of the people who voted in 2000 and who will vote in 2004 are not looking for verbal skills in Bush. They are looking for and finding some message that comes across on a non-verbal level. I feel like it would have come across even if Bush had stood up there for 90 minutes and literally said “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” The spin doctors can screw around with what Kerry said, and say reassuring things about Bush, and in the end the words spoken in the debate simply will not matter.


Comments:
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I was going to leave a little tip on New Years Resolutions and how to make the best of them.

Unfortunately, I would not be able to keep it brief.

Goal setting takes effort and you really have to know how to do it to do it well. Especially the follow-up.

That's why I've included a lot of FREE goal setting information on my website, to help folks like you be more successful.

In fact, you can start now, and get a head start on the new year - and the rest of your life.

Think goal setting isn't important? Spend a little time at reaching goals and you'll change your mind.

Have a GREAT day!
 
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
Douglas Adams- Posters.
 
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