The biggest casualty of the first Presidential Debate was truncating the two segments on role of government and governing style. These were set to happen last after three 15-minute segments on the economy and one on health care, but they were compressed into the little remaining time after moderator Jim Lehrer lost repeated battles against campaign talking points.
In one case, the President told off the moderator after hearing that time was up and turned his remaining five seconds into a minute and a half. Four years of constant deference from others is not a training camp for following rules.
Had Lehrer been equipped to turn off the microphones, we might have heard more about fact checking, flip-flopping, specific plans and governing philosophies. Voters would have been better served, as an understanding of the relative importance of these will matter most in the four years beginning January 20 if not on the long night of November 6. LibertyPell Stupidity Editor, Herb Gegendum, helps us to put them in perspective.
Let’s begin with flip-flopping. Eric Fehrnstrom, the Romney strategist of Etch-a-Sketch fame, committed a political gaffe by telling the truth when he pointed out last March that candidates take different positions in the general election than in the primaries. Of course they do. I would and you would too. None of us had a hand in cobbling together the ridiculous coalitions called the Republican and Democratic Parties. Neither did the candidates, but the candidates have to live with them.
Say one thing to get nominated and another to get elected. Live with the self-serving insanity that preserves the existing two-party system because that system controls access to the ballot. This is absolutely the best plan, and finger waggers who say otherwise should be called out for stupidity. Thought for another day: has anyone ever considered whether the duopoly called our two party system is the largest example of voter suppression in the history of democracy?
That leads to specific plans, usually called “my 37-point plan” or whatever number was most recently in disuse. They don’t matter because enacting anything requires the participation of 535 other people who have comfy chairs in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Nobody’s plan gets enacted. It might not even be a starting point for discussion. If the plans themselves don’t matter, surely flip-flopping about them doesn’t either.
Fact checking can matter but rarely as often as it is thought to matter. It matters when it identifies liars, and liars should not be given large dwellings in the center of Washington, expensive airplanes and fleets of helicopters. It does not matter when the facts in question are arcane details about policies that will never come into being anyway. Or the accuracy of promises (which are themselves lies) that pander to this or that voter group.
That leaves governing style – perhaps the only thing that does matter. For anyone interested in problem solving rather than balloon drop watching, “how” a candidate will approach a decision or a negotiation is more important than his opening gambit. His philosophy and approach tell us more about what we are in for than the accuracy of the 23rd point in his plan.
The closest we have heard to a philosophy came from former Governor Romney when he said, “my test for cutting a program will be whether it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it.” That is a better basis on which to make a decision about him than anything.
I bet the President has some of those too. Let’s hear them.