17 October 2012


Last night CNN's Candy Crowley moderated the second 2012 presidential election debate, and she acquitted herself well.  It is no easy task to direct two feisty alpha males, keeping them on the issue at hand and limiting their attempts to claim more than their share of allotted time.  The town hall format was a useful change, allowing citizens to ask questions themselves.  Alas, it did not allow those citizens to provide feedback on whether they thought the candidates had answered satisfactorily.

True to form, Mitt Romney tried more than once to abide by his own time rules, and Barack Obama had to choose between sitting quietly by, or asserting himself.  Last night Obama was much more aggressive than in the first presidential debate, and both candidates were well-organized.  Unfortunately, they both also employed deceptive tactics in characterizing the other man's position on various issues.  Here is Fact Check's analysis of their distortions, along with the correct information.  And here is the PBS Newshour's post-debate discussion (video and transcript), along with a video of the debate itself.

While Obama's policies more closely match my own values and opinions, I do differ with him with regard to his record on the environment and climate change.  I dearly wish that these debates included several features to keep the candidates honest ~ (a) a strict time policy, with the candidate's microphone automatically disabled at the end of his allotted time;  (b) attention to a broader range of issues;  and (c) instant fact-checking in which a candidate would be interrupted with corrections to any misleading or mistaken statements he made.  Crowley had one such moment last night, when she fact-checked a false accusation by Romney, putting him on the defensive at a critical juncture.  It was a wonderful moment, not for Obama, but for the debate process and for the electorate who must choose one of these men in November.

It is sad (but perhaps inevitable) that one's former youthful idealism is replaced over time by cynicism over the political process.  But then, the original Greek usage referred not to our modern usage of jaded distrust, but rather to the virtue of realistic criticism.  I am a cynic in the latter sense ~ hoping for the best, prepared for the worst.

One debate to go.  One hopes for candor and civility, but one prepares for antagonism and half-truths.  I wonder what the tenor of debate would be like between two women candidates?

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