Last night, I watched the Presidential debates between President Obama and Governor Romney. This is my first presidential election as an American citizen, so I felt oddly connected to the experience. I remember watching both of the last two presidential debates, so I was pretty excited to watch a debate between two intelligent figures with extremely powerful public presence. If I’m completely honest, I went into watching this debate without the slightest clue who I was going to vote for. I wanted to see how this played out, how confident each of them were in handling the issues presented to them by Jim Lehrer. After all, this was a Political Debate, which is always one of the most interesting to watch in my opinion.
So, there I sat, watching the debate and squinting my eyes trying to wrap my mind around what was happening before me. And then it ended, and I was frustrated and annoyed and generally unimpressed. But I brushed it off as a waste of an hour and a half in which no one told me a single thing about anything important and pretended I just got done watching a poor campaign advertisement for both candidates instead of something that confronted legitimate issues. That was all well-and-good until this morning rolled around and my twitter feed pushed article after article in my direction about how Governor Romney “dominated the debate, having an excellent stage presence and addressing Obama with direct questions that Obama failed to respond to while seeming disinterested and uninspired.”
And then my blood really began to boil. But not for why you’d think. See, I agree with part of that statement. Obama was certainly under-prepared There were issues presented by Jim Lehrer that the President fumbled with and failed to answer with an even mildly appropriate degree. And that’s well and good to attack the President for. In fact, he should be attacked for that! How you show up to a Presidential debate without any knowledge of what type of questions are going to be asked is astounding to me. But there it is. He did terrible.
The rest of that statement, however, is insulting. It’s perpetuating this idea that Romney was amazing because he confronted Obama with issues the President couldn’t handle, that Romney was excited, active, personally engaging, and always on the attack instead of the defensive.
So now I feel as though I need to explain something to everyone, because most of you are probably reading that and thinking “yea, so what?” or “I don’t think that’s true at all.” Either way, you’re wrong. That’s not the issue here, and that’s not the point. The point is simple:
What we watched was a complete insult to the debate system in which we put two candidates together and force them to address issues that are relevant to the general public in a neutral forum. That was not a debate, and to say that there was a winner in that bickering match is insulting and degrading. What you should be saying is “I demand a real debate!” And why wasn’t there a debate? Because apparently, Governor Romney is so wrapped up in his “I can do a better job than that guy!” campaign drive that he never bothered to jump on Google and look up the proper etiquette for a debate, something President Obama seemed completely aware of and yet he was chastised for his adherence to the rules… well, his adherence for a little while at least.
So, for those of you that don’t know, let me explain how this works:
There are three people in a presidential debate. Candidate Blue, Candidate Red, and The Purple Moderator. They are set up like this:
Now, notice how they’re standing and who they’re facing. The candidates are tilted towards the moderator, not each other The moderator can easily turn and face either of the candidates, but the candidates have to blatantly turn to face each other This is intentional.
So, we have a coin toss to decide who gets to go first on the first question. Lucky Candidate Blue gets to go first. So, off goes Purple, asking a question.
Blue gets 2 minutes to respond to the question. Now, Blue is addressing the moderator. This is how a debate works. Red can look at Blue, watch his actions and behaviors, but Blue is talking Purple because Purple is the one asking the questions. Purple represents us as a people, so Blue is supposed to be talking to us. So off goes Blue responding, and he talks about his issues and why it’s important for his campaign. He talks about himself in reference to the question at hand.
2 minutes is up, but Blue has so much to say that he just won’t shut up. But he doesn’t get to dot hat, so Purple says “That’s enough, Blue! You’ve had your time!” and kills the debate. Shame, Blue. You knew you only had 2 minutes. This is your fault.
Now, Purple grants Red 60 seconds to respond to Blue’s comments about his policies, plans, and expectations based on the question. Red is now addressing Purple, even though he’s talking about Blue, he must act like Blue isn’t in the room. This isn’t about their personal opinions of each other This is about issues Purple (representing the American Public) cares about. Blue watches Red, but Red continues to talk to Purple because Purple is the one with the question. Red doesn’t look at Blue. Red has nothing to say to Blue. Red is talking to us, represented by Purple.
60 seconds is up, but Red is making some excellent points that are relevant to us as listeners. Purple grants Red an additional 30 seconds. Red finishes out his 30 seconds, and Purple says “Your time is up, Red!” and that’s the end of his go.
Now, onto question two, where Red gets to go first this time, and we move on to other important questions. This time the roles are simply reversed where Red gets to talk about his plans and policies that will work with the given question and Blue gets to poke holes in it.
That’s a productive debate.
So what happened?
Well, this happened:
Purple asks Blue a question.
Blue responds in his allotted 2 minutes.
Time’s up! But wait, Blue is still talking. So, Purple goes to cut him off. But oddly, Purple’s microphone is switched off and we can’t hear him except faintly through the candidates microphone. That’s funny… So, Blue keeps going, ignoring Purple.
+30 seconds, and we can still hear Purple being cut off while Blue keeps going. +45 and still going. We’re now at +60, and finally Blue stops. Red immediately jumps in, but instead of addressing the issues, he turns and directly attacks Blue.
60 seconds are up, and all Red has done is attack Blue instead of addressing the issues and responding to Blue’s statements. Purple tries to cut them off, but funnily enough, Red isn’t done being an ass and wants to seem authoritative. So, he ignores Purple, who oddly is in the same situation he was in before with his microphone cut off. Lucky Purple! He seems to be losing control fast, doesn’t he? Oh well. +90 seconds later, Red is done.
Now, Purple attempts to take control. But wait! Even though the question was over 90 seconds ago, Blue is now pissed because instead of them addressing issues, this became personal! “Screw the rules, I’m going again!” says Blue. Purple tries to stop him, but this isn’t about Purple anymore. This is about Red and Blue!
+120 seconds later, Blue is done and feels as though things are even. But no! Red has more to say! So off he goes. Purple meanwhile realizes he has no control, and sits there wondering what the two are even arguing about. What was the question to begin with? Neither Blue nor Red seem to know, and it’s starting to confuse Purple. Purple wonders if anyone watching this on TV even remembers what the question was. Oh well. Red has things to say about something unrelated! Let’s let him talk, because hey, who cares about the rules of the debate right? Who cares that the people actually need important information to vote with intelligence!
+180 seconds later, Red is done attacking Blue. And finally, Purple just shouts “Hey, idiots! We just spent 15 minutes on a two minute quesiton! What’s wrong with you people?!”
Both shut up and look at purple. “Did we do something wrong?” they wonder while Purple moves them onto Quesiton Two over ten minutes behind schedule.
NOPE! We didn’t do anything wrong! Let’s do it again!!!
And that, my friends was the Presidential Debate last night. So please oh please, don’t sit here and tell me Romney won. Nobody won. It was an absolute disaster, it broke all the rules of a debate, and it was basically just two children standing in front of an entire nation fighting about things neither had any backing to prove.
It was insulting to the program, insulting to the presidency, and most of all, it was insulting to us as viewers who actually wanted to learn a thing or two about two men that one of whom will be running an entire country. And what did I learn?
They’re both children, and I wouldn’t trust either of them to make decisions on my behalf when they can’t even behave like adults for one and half hours so I can learn just one piece of valuable information about the next four years of my life as an American citizen.