Debates: Staying focused on the issues

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by Dan Beck

The presidential debates are over and thank goodness! We are now in the last stretch of the election cycle, culminating with November 6’s election. We can now stop overanalyzing the trite matters and focus on the real issues.

Pundits and experts from Fox News to CNN scrutinize every last detail of the debate the next day, pointing out every possible flaw each candidate exhibits. They try to pick out who the “winner” of the debate was and follow up-to-the minute “tickers” on their website showing how viewers are responding at that very second.
My professional speaking class picked apart the Monday, October 22 debate, getting to the heart of it all. We discussed things like posture of the candidates, the venue, the “townhall” format of the debate, and the facial reactions of Obama and Romney.

We seemed to cover everything. Well, everything but the only thing that really should matter – the issues.
The Twitter-verse blows up when the debates come on. And I’ll admit that I spend my time while I watch the debates, perusing my Twitter timeline, chuckling at funny comments from friends and getting live “fact checks” from the likes of Fox News, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, and every other news source.

Every comment is scrutinized. Every tiny fact is put under a microscope and examined. Every eyebrow twitch, sweat wipe and over-emphasized breath is picked apart tirelessly by both sides of the aisle.

It’s been said that Nixon lost the election to JFK because of his poor debate leading up to the 1960 election. This was the first television debate as 70 million viewers tuned in and saw Richard Nixon sans makeup, looking almost sickly, and not shaven, while the young upstart Kennedy breezed his way to a debate victory and eventually a win in the election. But how much of this election was based on the issues and how much was based on lack of makeup and excess of beard stubble?

The same holds true for 2012, as many voters will vote for Obama because Romney blinks an unnatural amount of times or vote for Romney because Obama had a stray eyelash in the second debate. Many undecided voters will look to hackneyed rhetoric to form their opinion. While it is important that the man running the country is a good orator and a personable guy that can relate to the average citizen, it is ultimately the issues that will decide the fate of the country for the next four years.

However, even the issues are not always clear and decisive. Both candidates have made statements about policies that are contradictory and just not fiscally possible. Fact-checkers have had their trigger fingers hot and ready during all the debates, squashing and debunking any untrue or questionable statements. Obama, for instance, has caught Romney on numerous occasions throughout the debates changing his views on various topics.

What I have seen most out of the debates is an opportunity for decided voters to yell “who-ha!” for their candidate. These people are not watching the debate for the sake of figuring out whom they would like to vote for, but rather looking for any chance to poke fun at the other candidate or stand up and cheer for their own candidate.

Now that the debates are over we can celebrate the fact that we no longer have to listen to 24 hour news coverage of candidate’s facial expressions. My advice to the voting public is to not look to the debate as a decision maker. Research the candidate’s and find their true intentions and not the things you have seen on the debate. Most importantly, exercise your right as an American and get out and vote on November 6 for the man you would like to lead this country for the next four years.

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