Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Watching the Debate

I don't know why I do this to myself. I'm not an undecided voter, and probably nothing at this point could sway me from voting for John Kerry, at least not to the point where I would actually vote for our current President. I do suppose it's theoretically possible that something could come up that would make Kerry an unattractive option, but I cannot fathom any set of circumstances that would cause me to support this administration and their dismal record. If something of that nature did occur, I'm much more likely to throw my support to Ralph Nader or another third-party candidate.

Don't worry, though; I don't see that happening either.

At any rate, given that my mind is made up, I don't know why I put myself through the near-torture that watching this debate entailed. I suppose it's just to keep myself informed on the points of contention, to learn more specifically what each party brings to the table. I guess I should know by now that these things aren't about specifics and clarification nearly as much as they're about soundbites and party lines.

This debate clearly illustrated one of the things that drives me absolutely crazy about the political process and is probably the main reason I'm convinced that our political system, for the most part, is a lost cause. These two men couldn't even agree on basic numbers without telling each other they had the facts wrong. Given that, who are we supposed to believe? Anyone who's solidly behind one candidate or the other will obviously believe their guy, but the undecided voters probably just get fed up. I get fed up myself. It would be nice if they could at least agree on some basic facts and debate from there, but instead they have to trade shots about who has the right facts. My guess is that they're both wrong, and just using whatever numbers best support their own positions.

I think that indicates a fairly significant problem when someone doesn't even necessarily believe their own candidate. I know that politicians paint things they way they want them to be seen, and I don't believe certain candidates are any different just because they're the ones I'm voting for. In effect, that changes an election from choosing the right person for the job into choosing the lesser of two evils. That's not how it should be. It would be refreshing to have a candidate who could accept the facts the way they are and address how to move on from there, rather than portraying things in a certain light that favors a certain argument.

Beyond that, I didn't care for the format of the debate, and this also goes for the Presidential debate from last Thursday. Instead of the limited time for each candidate to answer a question or respond to the other candidate, I think the moderater should introduce a topic/question and let the two candidates go back and forth for, say, ten minutes. I think the current format prevents them from talking about any topic at length and getting into detail about specific plans or policies, and also doesn't always allow sufficient time to respond to issues or charges raised by the other candidate that should be addressed. In many cases last night this led to topics being re-addressed after new questions had been asked, which was frustrating.

It probably doesn't matter, however, since most of the questions get dodged anyway, in their original form. Here's a novel concept: when the moderator asks a yes/no question, I would like to hear it answered with either "yes" or "no." I obviously want to hear them elaborate on that, but it would be great to get a straight answer to a question. I appreciate that these are complex issues that can't always be boiled down in that fashion, but sometimes it seems like the candidates didn't bother even trying to answer the questions as they were asked.

This is where I have to give Mr. Cheney credit. I feel like he did a better job than Mr. Edwards did of staying closer to the topics at hand. He was just as adept, though, at ignoring the actual question and spinning the topic in the direction he wanted to take it.

As for specifics, I don't think anything new was really revealed. Each candidate did a good job of sticking to party lines and talking points that have been repeated ad nauseam. I would like to have heard Cheney defend the Halliburton stuff, as well as the stuff he voted against when he was in Congress; I would like to have heard Edwards defend his Senate attendance record and the whole I-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against-it thing (I know that's Kerry's deal, but Mr. Cheney brought it up last night; I just want someone to explain it). A lot of it, I'm sure, is stuff that can't really be defended, but I suppose I'd just like to hear their respective justifications.

I also would have really liked it if Edwards had gone even further on attacking the current administration. He was presented a perfect opportunity--when Cheney suggested that Edwards's Senate record wasn't very "distinguished," Edwards could have knocked one out of the park by bringing saying that neither was the Bush administration's record on anything (nor is Cheney's personal career, as illustrated in this Rolling Stone article).

It's for this reason most of all that I feel like Edwards won the debate. It wasn't a knockout by any means, but I just feel that Mr. Cheney was debating from a position of weakness that is this administration's record and policy. He was destined to lose because he was trying to defend too many things that simply can't be defended. Also, he came across as an asshole, due in part to numerous snide remarks. However, it's obvious that Mr. Cheney is infinitely smarter and more articulate than his boss, and for that reason alone Mr. Edwards was unable to blow him out of the water.

I'm very glad this election will be over in another month.

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