Thursday, October 2, 2008

Master Debaters

First, Shana Tova to everyone, may this year bring us all, our country, and Israel new life, peace, and prosperity.

On the occasion of today's Vice-Presidential Debate, at Washington University, I wanted to try to give some insight, having been one of the lucky few, who, four years ago, witnessed the presidential debates at WU.

My presence at the debate was an example of Jewish geography at its finest: a friend of the family had a friend who worked for the Commission on Presidential Debates.

I walked from Wash U into Clayton to pick up the ticket, using an International Student ID card (which happened to make me 21) on the way to pick up a bottle of wine for the lovely ticket providing friend.

Being still a doe-eyed freshman, the whole ordeal seemed larger than life.

Hordes of media, security, and excitement.

People were excited to see the President of the Unites States... and perhaps more excited to see the man they hoped would become the President of the United States.

In a situation not too unlike the Vice-Presidential debate this year, four years ago, the Presidential debate pitted a Democrat noted for his master debating skills against a Republican for whom the bar was set abysmally low.

Let me tell you what I saw unfold in that debate.

I heard John Kerry give lucid, fairly-well reasoned responses in a somewhat academic manner. The students who were hidden from the cameras in the upper level of the auditorium nodded appreciatively at the reason and pragmatism.

I also heard President George W. Bush act a little defensive, a bit anti-intellectual. He was the defender of Joe Six-pack, even if he'd never actually been a Joe Six-Pack. His arguments were emotional in nature, and while they drew scowls and suppressed jeers from the audience up above, the randomly picked town-hall participants seemed put at ease by his simple black and white answers.

History has a way of repeating itself, or so I'm told repetitively.

If Sarah Palin has a chance, it is this same tactic, the bullied underdog, constantly being attacked by pesky things like 'facts', 'logic', and appeals to reason.

It's not that I think her unintelligent. I just haven't seen any proof yet of her grasp of complex issues.

Ultimately though, I found the debate to be an exercise in evasive tactics. Neither candidate answered a single question directly, using the question instead to return to talking points again and again

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