My reaction to the second debate will be a little less cordial – which is nothing compared to my impression of how the two leading candidates were reacting at the public forum. I was so upset with the two debaters and their lack of maturity and respect. And by respect, I don’t necessarily mean respect for each other, but respect for the American people. They are running to be our representative serving in the highest seat in our nation. You can challenge each other on the points in a respectful manner.
For starters, the candidates need to learn to answer the question asked. The most obvious example from the debate was when President Obama was asked about the attack in Libya. The question asked was:
This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
The Presidents answer was:
Well, let me, first of all, talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States; they’re my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks, and I know their families. So nobody’s more concerned about their safety and security than I am.
So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and — and — and procedures not just in Libya but every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.
Now, Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.
And people — not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya — in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after al-Qaida and bin Laden. We have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That’s what I’m doing.
And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.
Nowhere in that answer was a response to the question “Who was it that denied enhanced security and why” asked by Kerry Ladka. He didn’t even come close to recognizing the question asked. Now, the President is obviously not going to come out and say Analyst Joe Smith denied the request since that would be inappropriate, but he should have at least acknowledged it. What he should have said, “Kerry, it would be irresponsible for me to give the single out the individual who made the decision. After all, I am ultimately responsible for those whom I send out into harms way…” and so on.
Secondly, neither candidate seemed at all concerned about their two-minute time limit for their responses. Constantly both men continued to talk after their time ran out. It was obvious because you could clearly see the time counting down; first with the background color being green and then turning red as time came close to running out. I propose that in future debates, the microphones that the candidates are using are linked to the clock. That way, when time runs out, a kill-switch is automatically triggered and the microphone turns off.
Thirdly, they need to stop interrupting each other. The candidate has two minutes to talk, with the other candidate having the same two minutes to make his rebuttal and/or answer the same question. When you interrupt, you are denying the candidate the chance to make their case, so extend to them that curtsey and they will return the favor. If they don’t, then they look bad in the eyes of the viewers.
Lastly, especially in this format, the moderator is suppose to be “invisible”. There is no reason why the moderator should have anything to say other than to ask the questions, guide follow-up responses, reprimand the candidates for violating the rules of the debate. They should not be providing commentary nor playing the role of fact checker. That is the responsibility of the media and the voter.
In the end, I think both candidates lost the debate. While they may have won individual questions or points, they lost credibility with their actions. I hope they perform better in the foreign policy debate, but I won’t be holding my breath.