What The Debates Will Reveal

Anyone who's worked on a campaign knows how hard it is for a candidate to show his true self, yet the debates can give voters some important insights

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George W. Bush (R) and Al Gore debate in their first debate, October 3, 2000.

“Just be yourself,” friends and campaign officials used to tell George W. Bush before the presidential debates in 2000 and 2004. The advice both annoyed and amused him. “Just who else do they think I would be?” he would ask.

Those giving the advice meant that they yearned to see the down-to-earth, relaxed, engaging person they knew in everyday life come across on television; those who have spent any time close to presidential debates know how extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, that task is.

(MORE: As Debates Loom, Romney Grasps for a Closing Argument)

The debates are the high-wire act of the fall campaign, the most intense pressure points in the pressure cooker of the process of choosing America’s next president. They bring two candidates who’ve been running against each other from a distance suddenly up close and personal, often producing interesting insights into their styles and mannerisms.

I don’t think anyone remembers much of what was said in the first debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000; the news was all about Gore’s mummy-like make-up and exaggerated sighs. We prepared a retort for Governor Bush to use in the second debate if Gore continued his loud exhalations in response to the governor’s discussion of his leadership in Texas: “Stop sighing about my record!” But, of course, Gore had been warned and didn’t repeat the mistake.

(MORE: The Problem With Televised Debates: The Viewers)

By the time Barack Obama and Mitt Romney walk on stage Wednesday night, their heads will have been crammed full of facts, lines of attack, suggested sound bites and possible answers to impossible questions. Having witnessed the intense preparations for his own father’s presidential debates, George W. Bush set a strict rule before his first and only debate with incumbent Texas Governor Ann Richards in 1994. If you have any ideas for what I should say, he told his staff and friends, do me a favor and don’t tell me, tell Karen. By the time debate night arrived, my head was so full of sometimes conflicting advice that I felt it might explode.

Debating is not a skill we require of presidents except in the fall campaign. To the contrary, most people who come into a president’s orbit every day tend to be deferential rather than challenging or combative. Yet debates reveal how candidates respond to pressure, whether they can articulate a vision and rebut attacks without seeming defensive or testy.

(MORE: As the Debates Approach, Romney and Obama Praise Each Other)

Romney’s task on Wednesday night will be to come across as a strong, yet likable leader and connect the dots to explain why his policies will bring the change America so desperately needs. Obama will once again argue, as he did in his convention speech, for more time to pursue policies that thus far have failed to put America back to work. While many debates come down to a snappy sound bite or memorable exchange, I have a feeling this fall’s debates may feel bigger and more sweeping. Americans know the stakes are high and the issues are difficult — and the two men debating them have vast philosophical differences. Here’s hoping for a full airing in which we see glimpses of each candidate’s real self.

6 comments
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bobmunna
bobmunna

What is a real factor to decide everyone’s mind to choose a president ? At coming Nov. 6, there will be a election day of USA president. As I am from Korean (permanent resident), I don’t have a right to vote. But I would like to say something on the election.Let me start a brief story which has been happening in Korea. It was about 5 years ago when global economy was getting worse and worse and there was a presidential election (December 2007). At that time, Korean voters were really nervous to select a president who could save the country out of economic problems like now at USA.And a successful business man turned into politician candidate was elected as president of Korea. The newly-elected president was well known to Korean people for his entrepreneur achievements overcoming his poverty-stricken background. As soon as he started his job, he and his administration pushed their tasks strongly and rapidly, but with lack of consent, discuss and support from Korean people. It is as if there is nobody who knows money matters better than him and he thinks that they could solve any major and tough economic issues easily the country was facing. He might think that the money issue could make people run and run happily without any denial like horse chasing for carrot. But, on the contrary, he faced a stiff resistance from people and in less than 6 months since he inaugurated, his approval rating plunged to below 20%. He lost his leadership and people’s admiration for the economic president cooled down. He couldn’t pursue his major issues any more because Korean people didn’t let him do his own way since then.Fortunately, under a ongoing economic recession, no leadership and several threats from North Korea, Korea maintained its strength due to three following groups. One is big companies well associated with small-medium companies which are ready to win a severe global competition. Those companies also have a strong ownership system which make them survive desperately against any difficulties. Secondly, terribly education-oriented parents who push their children to study and study. Those parents’ endless zeal make it possible to supply top quality workers to companies. The last is young people connected completely through social network. Through SNS, they are sometimes divided variously, but under a critical situation, they are strongly united.The reason why I refer above is that president is not merely a money counter or economist. It is not to select the best economist. I think that economy has been destroyed by each people’s economic behavior based on their economic (selfish) greed. In other words, each people’s economic behavior destroyed whole economy. So, economic issues needs to be healed in other ways and should not be placed as top priority in the election. Instead of going for functional president like Korea made a mistake, you need to choose a president who can pull out a hidden potential power from people. He should be a smart philosopher or nice hero who digs out a sincere and united energy from people. Under a current global economic recession, only one or two persons cannot resolve these problems. You need a real man who shakes people’s mind to move and makes them run for a better future. It may require a sacrifice and understanding each other. That’s his job to persuade affordable peoples to invest / spend more and work warm-hearted with hard-stricken peoples to restore their status as soon as possible with all possible ways.I heard that there were three ways to rule people at ancient China.Power, Food and Belief. If governor rules people by suppress power, people are easily to run away. By food, the most powerful and easy way, but if there is no more food, people hate governor and turn their backs to him. If governor lead people by belief, people are willingly to follow the governor even though they don’t have enough food or any places to dwell. The belief to governor make people overcome the difficulties with a hope that there would be better times after all.It is time to elect such a president who really unites American people with a belief and leads you to a point where everybody goes for gladly. Without obtaining mind and support from people, you cannot recover economy even though you pour lots of lots of money. It is a waste of money and time. Just money pushes people to where money is worth. But, money along with people’s sincere efforts for future and next generation leads people far beyond where money is worth.So, at election day, forget about economy and please think about days after election. You need to find the person who can patch the pieces torn through election process and strengthen the unity of America regardless which party people votes for. The new president should be the one to make social consensus which whole people brace willingly. Great Americans !!!! Do you know this ? Peoples working for export merchandise at remote small town in China or salt trade camel caravan in Sahara desert are also interested in who will be elected as president of USA. Even though USA presidential election happens at opposite side of earth, they have a hope that a new USA president would be helpful to their lives. No one denies that America is the most important part of the world. So, if America people gets together with their president, EU, south America countries, BRIC’s and other countries will follow. And global economy would be much better than now.Please remember that your choice is not just for you and it is for the world.

bobmunna
bobmunna

What is a real factor to decide everyone’s mind to choose a president ? At coming Nov. 6, there will be a election day of USA president. As I am from Korean (permanent resident), I don’t have a right to vote. But I would like to say something on the election.Let me start a brief story which has been happening in Korea. It was about 5 years ago when global economy was getting worse and worse and there was a presidential election (December 2007). At that time, Korean voters were really nervous to select a president who could save the country out of economic problems like now at USA.And a successful business man turned into politician candidate was elected as president of Korea. The newly-elected president was well known to Korean people for his entrepreneur achievements overcoming his poverty-stricken background. As soon as he started his job, he and his administration pushed their tasks strongly and rapidly, but with lack of consent, discuss and support from Korean people. It is as if there is nobody who knows money matters better than him and he thinks that they could solve any major and tough economic issues easily the country was facing. He might think that the money issue could make people run and run happily without any denial like horse chasing for carrot. But, on the contrary, he faced a stiff resistance from people and in less than 6 months since he inaugurated, his approval rating plunged to below 20%. He lost his leadership and people’s admiration for the economic president cooled down. He couldn’t pursue his major issues any more because Korean people didn’t let him do his own way since then.Fortunately, under a ongoing economic recession, no leadership and several threats from North Korea, Korea maintained its strength due to three following groups. One is big companies well associated with small-medium companies which are ready to win a severe global competition. Those companies also have a strong ownership system which make them survive desperately against any difficulties. Secondly, terribly education-oriented parents who push their children to study and study. Those parents’ endless zeal make it possible to supply top quality workers to companies. The last is young people connected completely through social network. Through SNS, they are sometimes divided variously, but under a critical situation, they are strongly united.The reason why I refer above is that president is not merely a money counter or economist. It is not to select the best economist. I think that economy has been destroyed by each people’s economic behavior based on their economic (selfish) greed. In other words, each people’s economic behavior destroyed whole economy. So, economic issues needs to be healed in other ways and should not be placed as top priority in the election. Instead of going for functional president like Korea made a mistake, you need to choose a president who can pull out a hidden potential power from people. He should be a smart philosopher or nice hero who digs out a sincere and united energy from people. Under a current global economic recession, only one or two persons cannot resolve these problems. You need a real man who shakes people’s mind to move and makes them run for a better future. It may require a sacrifice and understanding each other. That’s his job to persuade affordable peoples to invest / spend more and work warm-hearted with hard-stricken peoples to restore their status as soon as possible with all possible ways.I heard that there were three ways to rule people at ancient China.Power, Food and Belief. If governor rules people by suppress power, people are easily to run away. By food, the most powerful and easy way, but if there is no more food, people hate governor and turn their backs to him. If governor lead people by belief, people are willingly to follow the governor even though they don’t have enough food or any places to dwell. The belief to governor make people overcome the difficulties with a hope that there would be better times after all.It is time to elect such a president who really unites American people with a belief and leads you to a point where everybody goes for gladly. Without obtaining mind and support from people, you cannot recover economy even though you pour lots of lots of money. It is a waste of money and time. Just money pushes people to where money is worth. But, money along with people’s sincere efforts for future and next generation leads people far beyond where money is worth.So, at election day, forget about economy and please think about days after election. You need to find the person who can patch the pieces torn through election process and strengthen the unity of America regardless which party people votes for. The new president should be the one to make social consensus which whole people brace willingly. Great Americans !!!! Do you know this ? Peoples working for export merchandise at remote small town in China or salt trade camel caravan in Sahara desert are also interested in who will be elected as president of USA. Even though USA presidential election happens at opposite side of earth, they have a hope that a new USA president would be helpful to their lives. No one denies that America is the most important part of the world. So, if America people gets together with their president, EU, south America countries, BRIC’s and other countries will follow. And global economy would be much better than now.Please remember that your choice is not just for you and it is for the world.

Shams Aci
Shams Aci

As per observational reports received through  various reliable sources, Mr. Obama seems over optimistic in whatever he says and acts on, whereas, Mr. Romney exposes himself as a semi-optimistic fellow.

Now, the American nationals (voters) have to decide which one to vote for or look for the third one if any who is the  moderately optimistic personality.

May America be blessed with the most suitably deserving fellow as their next president!

   - A.R.Shams’s Reflection – Press and Online Publications. http://arshamssreflection.blog/..

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

"Romney's task on Wednesday night will be to come across as a strong, likeable leader and connect the dots to explain why his policies will bring the change America so desperately needs."

In other words, he has to pretend to be Obama.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Willard has so many positions on every issue, he could debate himself and still lose.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

"Romney's task on Wednesday night will be to come across as a strong, likeable leader and connect the dots to explain why his policies will bring the change America so desperately needs."

Really?  Willard is going to drop his "elect me, trust me and find out later" schtick in reference to his policies?  He's actually going to give us dots to connect, finally?

Willard has been running for President for years and has yet to come across as a strong, likeable leader.  I doubt he can pull off such an enormous fake-out on debate night.