I put the word debate in quotes intentionally. Whatever the exchange tonight between Mrs. Obama and Romney, it is not a debate. As a collegiate debater in my youth, please take my word on this.
And the passing from the stage in the 1980's of the League of Women Voters was a true loss, for the League, as they pointed out in their decision not to sponsor the debates any longer, looked out not for the candidates, but for the electorate.
That said, I have prepared myself a flow chart to score, in debater fashion, which speaker carries each point. So it was with interest that I checked out CNN this morning with its article on 5 Things to Watch for in Tonight's Debate.
Alas, I am again disappointed. #1 on CNN’s things to watch for? “Who’s presidential”.
The most important thing for me to know tonight, apparently, is not how they would actually address the things about which government actually has some sway, but whether they ‘look’ and I ‘feel’ that they ‘look’ presidential.
I’m guessing (it’s a pretty safe bet) both men will wear conservative suits and ties, with nice hair cuts and shined shoes. Beyond that, what exactly does a president ‘look’ like? Other than being male and generally tall for their generation, there seems to be no precise definition.
Some were thin, some fat, some classically handsome, some not so much.
To be fair, the author went on to note that to ‘look’ presidential is to have a certain ‘tone’ – what he calls ‘composure and stature’, or acting like they belong to the job.
Yet I remain puzzled. Mr. Obama, by definition acts presidential, as he is already the president. He may not ‘act’ like what folks want him to, but when he acts, he is being presidential for the simple fact that he is (the president).
For some, acting presidential means being ‘strong’ enough to pound your opponent to the ground. Others seek someone more in the image of the dignified statesman. Still others are looking for that indefinable ‘something’ that says ‘President’ to them.
But this is all star gazing.
I don’t need stature in a president. What I require as a voter is competence.
I don’t look for composure – both these men have already passed the test of time on the campaign trail – I look for solid ideas and plans for how to accomplish those ideas.
I don’t mind if they’re human; in fact, I prefer it. Thus I do not especially care that Mitt Romney looked a bit silly trying to bet Rick Perry money during one of the debates. Nor do I care that Obama told Hilary Clinton that she’s ‘likeable enough’.
What I do care about is their vision; their philosophy; their worldview.
I care about whether they care – not about me so much as the poor, those who need and require their care.
I care about whether they have the personal integrity and courage (and it takes courage to resist the exercise of power) not to bomb our enemies.
So here are my two most important questions for tonight:
Mr. Romney, if you wish to eliminate or substantially change the approach of progressive taxation, as your talking points suggest, upon what basis do you claim that this shift actually results in an increase in prosperity for everyone? And as a subset of that question, if you have to sacrifice one of your taxation goals in order to achieve a balance to the budget, which goal is the most expendable from your point of view?
Mr. Obama, given that as president, you are required to work with Congress, how do you propose to enact your economic programs (or any of your programs, for that matter) in the face of organized, concerted congressional opposition? It is not enough to merely blame Congress. What do you plan to do about it?
I look forward to your answers, gentlemen.