Rich Galen explains why I am unlikely to watch any of the presidential debates:
- A political debate has as much to do with a classical debate as a Formula One race has to do with a Monster Truck show. …
- In the olden days when I did debate prep with Congressional candidates I made sure they understood that the moderator could ask whatever question he or she wanted to ask, but the candidate was free to answer any question he or she wanted to.
- The answer didn’t have to respond directly to the question.
- Candidates have to play to their strengths. If they are good at data – quote data. If they are good at anecdotes – quote an anecdote. The worst thing a candidate who is good at anecdotes can do in a debate is try to quote data – or vice versa.
- I also counseled the staff to seek out every reporter they could find and declare, following the debate, a shockingly superior performance by their candidate.
- I told them I didn’t care if their candidate threw up on his shoes during the debate. Say it was a victory for anyone in the District who had ever suffered gastric distress.
- Watch for the answers by Obama and Romney. See how closely they track Jim Lehrer’s questions. Also watch for the post-debate “spin” and see how “shockingly superior” the performances were for each candidate according to their official spinners.
Galen didn’t mention the relatively new theme of expectations — the difference between the conventional wisdom of how a candidate is supposed to do and how he or she actually does. My favorite example is George W. Bush, who before the first 2000 debate was not expected to be able to speak in complete sentences. Well, he could and he did. His opponent, Al Gore, was, well …
Debates have nothing at all to do with being president, or for that matter governor. They may have something to do with being a member of a legislative body — that is, for those naïve enough to believe that minds aren’t already made up before the legislative body meets. The idea that the American people cannot decide between candidates for president without debates is as absurd as suggesting that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are the second coming of Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.
On the other hand, I might watch the vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and our two-digit-IQ vice president.