The Second Presidential Debate – the Hustle in Hofstra

Tim Bean



I’m back after a four day hiatus attending a dear friend of mine’s wedding, and though I am a little jet lagged and tired from all of the pre and post wedding festivities, it is time to return to commenting on the “wonderful” world of politics.

Tonight we are all going to be treated to the second of the three Presidential debates scheduled for this election year.  In the first debate Mitt Romney was widely considered to be the victor, even by those pundits that are decidedly in favor of a second term for President Obama.  I already comment on that debate, where I thought Mitt seemed more engaged and the President looking less engaged and actually looked afraid to look Mitt Romney in the eye whenever Mitt was talking.  I say “afraid,” but it could also be that President Obama simply doesn’t like Romney enough to look him in the eye; maybe his (the President’s) body language was more out of disgust than fear.  Regardless of what the reasons were, President Obama didn’t do his re-election efforts any justice through his behavior.

Sadly I missed most of the Vice Presidential debate due to (1) a bad storm that knocked out my satellite reception during it and (2) me having to get ready for the red-eye flight I had on Friday for the wedding I mentioned at the beginning.  That being said, the little that I was able to see, which was essentially the final thirty minutes, I thought Joe Biden seemed have had the edge over his opponent Paul Ryan.  This isn’t to say that I agreed with his answers, rather I am just stating my perception of what I saw.  I did read a couple articles that stated VP Biden continuously interrupted Paul Ryan throughout the debate – something like 82 times – which is apparently some kind of record.  Regardless of that dubious record being set, most pundits believe that the result of the VP debate was a split decision.  Personally, while I do believe that the VP candidates should debate, in the grand scheme of things it is really kind of a moot point, simply because the office of the Vice President has minimal responsibilities other than being President of the Senate and casting the deciding vote in that house in the event of a tie vote.  Basically the VP has little to do in policy decisions.

Tonight’s debate will be a “town meeting” format, meaning that the audience will be the one’s asking the questions.  I have already stated that I believe that the debates are essentially scripted affairs (much like the two big tent parties’ conventions), this is based largely on the fact that the Commission on Presidential Debates is comprised of and founded by the leadership from both the Democrats and the Republicans.  So, while we can expect the questions that will be posed by the selected audience members will be on varying subjects, one should be suspect over how the audience members are selected for asking their questions.  It may be random, but I am fairly certain that all audience members’ questions are prescreened by the moderators and then only the “best” questions will be chosen to be asked; but that is just my suspicion.

If this is in fact how the questioners will be chosen, I can understand one reason for doing such a prescreening process, and that is due to television time constraints.  However, that is also one of the reasons that both the two big party conventions were scripted too.  My point here is that in order to have honest politics in this country the process cannot, and should not be “made for television.”  Our governmental format is supposed to be of the people, for the people, and by the people, which almost automatically means that it most certainly will not fit into an allotted television time slot.  If it were an honest discussion it would more often than not run into extra innings, sort to speak.  Sure, anyone who has ever participated in a debate, be it on their high school, or college debate teams, knows that all debates have a schedule and time limits. However, if you are going to have a town hall style debate, then there should be a minimal expectation of going into overtime, to use another sports analogy.

The audience/questioners tonight are supposed to be comprised of undecided voters, selected by the Gallop polling company, that live in the Long Island area, near the University of Hofstra, which is the site of the debate.  As this article asks, how in today’s hyper-connected world can anyone really be 100% undecided on who they are going to vote for is really beyond me, but I guess there are some out there who are still not sure who they want to vote for.  I have stated multiple times though that given the large percentage of people who no longer identify with either the Democrats’ or the Republican’s party platform, that it is now time to start looking for and identifying the other candidates out there who are on enough states’ ballots to conceivably win the election, and then having them invited to the debates too.  Sadly, because the Commission on Presidential Debates is run by both the red and the blue camps then it is very remote that this commission would dare to upset their own apple cart by extending invitations to “outsiders.”  Then equally sad is that due to the fact that the debates are made for television, and thus must fit into a prescribed television time slot, having a 3rd or 4th candidate on the stage would require that the debates run longer than the television networks would like.  Neither of those excuses are sufficient enough to me when We the People are to choose who we want to represent our interests in the White House – but then again, as exampled by the antics of both the red and blue parties at their conventions have already proven that they don’t give a flip about what their own delegates want, so why should they give a flip about We the People anymore?

I expect tonight’s debate to interesting, not because I believe any new illuminated ideas will be exposed, but instead because President Obama acknowledged that he was “too polite” to Mitt Romney in the first debate.  So it will be interesting to see how “un-polite” the President will be tonight.  If he comes across too un-polite, then it could very well backfire on him.  Either way I also expect a simple rehashing of each candidate’s fuzzy policy goals, tired rhetoric, and how they are going to use government to solve all of our problems, whether we want or like it or not – of the people, for the people, and by the people indeed.


The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem. (Milton Friedman)

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