The Fake Debaters

Deena Mueller

I’ve finally decided whom to vote for in this election! And while there’s still one presidential debate left, I doubt that will sway my decision. Quite frankly, I don’t care who does well in the debates. I don’t care who ‘looked good.’ I don’t care who used complex rhetorical techniques. I don’t care who won.

People often put too much emphasis on candidates’ performance in the series of debates that lead up to Election Day. In fact, one could easily argue that the advent of televised debates made all the difference in the 1960 election of JFK. He spoke well and appeared attractive, whereas Nixon stuttered and sweated the whole time. Now, I’m not disputing that the outcome of that election wasn’t for the best, but I believe many people voted for the wrong reasons.

Moderated debate is not well correlated with the actual task one takes on, upon becoming president. Being a charismatic individual and an engaging public speaker are certainly positive attributes, but are not necessary qualifications to the presidency. Debates show who has rehearsed answers to predicted questions. In the real world, situations arise suddenly, without warning, and the president needs to react swiftly, decisively and appropriately. Sure, there will be a few press conferences along the way, but he will be judged on how he chooses to address a situation, not how well he articulates his plan.

Give me a president who is intelligent enough to solve our problems, wise enough to seek expert council, caring enough to act on behalf of the people, determined enough to mend this country, and I won’t care if he is too old or too young; too white or too Black; too inarticulate or too verbose. Right now, this country needs someone who can restore America’s reputation around the world, minimize our presence and expenditures in Iraq, and invigorate the American economy, in turn boosting the global economy, which has been slipping as of late.

Granted, many Americans rely on the debates to get candidates’ opinions on these and other important issues; however, the debates are not the only way, nor are they a more pure way, to become informed about politicians’ positions. Speeches, press releases, even commercials, spread the platforms of each candidate, and there is no different to the answers given during debate and the ideas put forth during interviews and publications. Don’t be fooled into thinking the candidates in debates are ever just ‘talking off the cuff” about how they really feel. Every word that comes out their mouths is censored first by a campaign specialist and expert speechwriter. The debates only reflect how well a candidate can regurgitate the words he was preciously coached on. Furthermore, the debates often showcase candidates’ skills at evading topics, restating questions, or shifting the responsibility of answering to their opponent. None of which matter once he’s in the White House.

Even more ridiculous to me is the concept of the Vice Presidential debate. Who cares? I’m barely considering who the VPs are in my vote, so I’m really not concerned with how well they can argue their parties’ stance.

The bottom line is that if you think McCain’s policies are best, then vote for him. If you think that Obama will do the most to benefit this country, vote for him. Luckily, in my opinion, both candidates seem competent and a significant improvement over George W. Bush. Still, if you think neither is tolerable, vote independent. But if you choose to base your vote on who wins the series of debates, or looked the most confident, or who spoke the most eloquently, then you’re acting as stupid as those people who don’t even exercise their right to vote.