Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Zing Went The Strings
I don't know what to expect from the presidential debates, and I'm not even sure I'll watch them. Maybe read about them first, watch a few clips if I think I can stand it. But one thing is sure: if The Rominee follows his reported plan to use a bunch of pre-written and well-rehearsed "zingers," he'll look like an idiot. Well, more of an idiot. Except, of course, to those to whom he kowtows, and to teabaggers. Everyone else (or so one would assume) will see it for what it is: yet another example of the low regard in which he holds the electorate, and the lack of belief he has in most of what he says.
Zingers. He's practicing zingers. For a presidential debate. To convince people he's the best candidate. Not policy. Zingers.
I've taken a lot of exams in my life, some of them actually important: MCAT, surgery boards and recertification, medical license, membership in the College of Surgeons (that was mostly and interview, and the submission of a bunch of op reports.) There came a time when I said to myself, I've been practicing surgery actively, reading, going to the occasional meeting; if I don't know this stuff by now, no amount of cramming is going to bail me out, and I'm better off getting a good night's sleep. Naively, I see the debates the same way: if you know what you're talking about, have convictions, haven't lied very much about your opponent or yourself, have studied the sorts of issues on which you're running, you shouldn't need all the debate prep that both sides seem to do.
Similarly, if you could count on moderators to ask fair and important questions, to give a chance for complete answers, avoid the gotcha silly stuff (which, of course, you can't), you ought to be confident in your ability to respond.
There's something wrong with the whole idea of debates, as they've evolved. First, in no way are they really debates. Second, they've become at least as much a showcase, as it were, for the askers as the askees. They, by design maybe, lend themselves to superficialities. And zingers.
Think about it: Mitt Romney is having people write punchlines for him, practicing them, planning on finding openings in which to insert them. (I can imagine him forcing them into where they don't belong, because he's so intent on dropping them that he's not paying attention to the important stuff; which might be an argument for watching.) For all I know, Barack Obama is, too. But whereas Romney's campaign seems to think it's something to brag about, Obama's is saying his focus is on addressing the issues.
One would hope.