Today’s subject is pet peeves—more specifically, those that struck a nerve with me in last night’s presidential debate.
Let me begin by listing a few of my pet peeves: Tardiness; the phrase “my bad” uttered by anyone over the age of 4; negativity; rude behavior, such as interrupting and finger-pointing (literally); dishonesty; obfuscation; and the failure to answer a question. To paraphrase the title of a Meat Loaf song as it applies to last night’s debate and these pet peeves: Five out of seven is bad.
If I had to choose one word to describe this presidential campaign, it would be “negative.” As a veteran campaigner (I once worked on a campaign for a circuit court judgeship), I’ve seen what goes on behind the scenes in a political contest on a small scale. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, I was proud that my candidate, Mike, took the high road, while the others engaged in verbal warfare until Mike was the last man standing and the one to take office.
While ours was a clean campaign in which the candidate ran on his credentials, record, and plans for the office, if elected, our opponents’ campaigns were all about trashing the other guys. Oh how I wish our presidential candidates took Mike’s path and ran on their credentials, records, and clearly defined plans, as opposed to what they are doing—trashing each other in commercials, speeches, and in debates where the barbs override attempts to actually answer questions.
Why was Mike able to run a clean campaign? Because his credentials, record, and experience for the office were impeccable. That’s not to say that he walked on water and had no skeletons in his closet, but he was a quality candidate who did not have to stoop to negativity and mud-slinging to win the election. Wouldn’t you like to think our presidential candidates were the same?
Which brings me back to what’s happening in the presidential debates. Both sides are guilty of negativity and blaming: Look what bad shape we’re in because of your term in office versus it’s your party that got us here and you want to go back to the policies that made this happen. And let’s see which of us can scare the public more into thinking the sky will fall if the other guy is elected.
Rude behavior also is abundant. If you saw last night’s debate or the vice-presidential debate last week, you saw constant interruptions by both candidates. Yes, it bites to have a format in which you are chomping at the bit to refute what the other guy has just said about you and don’t have the opportunity at that moment. Few of us would be able to just stand there quietly—without smirking—and work the rebuttal into another answer opportunity.
Both candidates also pointed fingers at the other in making points. When that happens, I can’t help but think about the adages related to finger-pointing: “When you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.” “When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.” (Check out the photo at this link for an illustration.)
Dishonesty … sometimes it’s a matter of semantics (what exactly is sex or the meaning of the word is?); sometimes it’s being vague; sometimes it’s perspective; and sometimes it’s outright lying. How to know when it’s what? Well, one term that’s been used abundantly in this election is fact check. Of course, you have to trust the fact checkers to be nonbiased—to be Joe Fridays. For those of you who want to check the facts from last night’s debate regarding the “act of terror,” here are links to the CNN fact check and the Fox News fact check—something for everyone.
Which brings me to obfuscation and failure to answer the question. Where to start? How about at the beginning?
First-time voter Jeremy Epstein asked, “Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors, and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. Can — what can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?”
I became frustrated as Governor Romney and then President Obama began to respond without really answering the specific question. Their discussion quickly focused on the automaker bailout and stayed there. Yes, the bailout saved some existing jobs, but is this an example of how the current administration plans to create jobs? By bailing out large corporations in trouble? At what cost? It’s likely that I took away the wrong message from this discussion, but, honestly, I found it irrelevant to Jeremy’s question.
The same could be said for how the second question was answered—or not. Philip Tricolla said to President Obama, “Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?”
This question required—in my opinion—a yes or no answer with an explanation. That was not to be. The president went right to his energy policy, which he concluded is “going to help Jeremy get a job” and “also going to make sure that you’re not paying as much for gas.”
With all due respect, the question was: “Do you agree with Secretary Chu that (lowering gas prices) is not the job of the Energy Department?” I didn’t hear the answer.
In my opinion, both candidates failed miserably in the debate. Why have a Q&A format if the A doesn’t answer the Q?
If you missed the debate or saw it and want to relive it, here’s the full transcript. See what you think. I guarantee you’ll see some of my pet peeves in action as you read.
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