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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    To have meaningful discussion, reform presidential debate format

    What do you get when two authorities, who should be trustworthy, start accusing each other of lying on national TV? You get the the American political system.

    More specifically, you get President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s first presidential debate — otherwise known as the biggest game of “he said, she said” anyone has ever dared to call political discourse.

    If you missed it, here are the highlights: Obama said Romney would do something, and then described how he himself would do it instead. Romney responded by saying, in an equally vague way, that everything Obama said was misinformed or a flat-out lie.

    Rinse and repeat, with both candidates taking turns pointing fingers and backpedalling for two hours, while moderator Jim Lehrer possibly falls asleep — and that’s how Americans are supposed to decide which candidate represents their best interests.

    If the situation weren’t so serious, it might actually be funny, but no one who wants to make a logical, informed decision could possibly do so when there wasn’t a single fact to be found during the debate.

    Sure, there’s always the Internet, where dozens of websites and news outlets fact checked the whole debate. But this raises two problems.

    Number one: Fact checking points made in the debate primarily highlights the fact that the men we’re supposed to choose between to run the country lied or manipulated the truth frequently and without remorse. This should automatically make citizens question the validity of anything any candidate says, forever.

    Number two: Since candidates couldn’t be bothered to tell the truth, America is forced to trust that its citizens won’t be too lazy to do the research on their own — which is all the more startling when you take into account the fact that, according to U.S. Census data, during the 2008 presidential election 36 percent of voting-aged citizens couldn’t even be bothered to vote in the first place.

    It would be naive to say voters shouldn’t challenge the claims of the people trying to represent them on a national scale. It would also be impossible to expect politicians to not massage the truth in the hopes of appearing more preferable than their opponents. But what wouldn’t be impossible is redefining what a debate is and what it reveals about the candidates.

    Because the current debate format doesn’t hold candidates accountable for their claims, it’s pretty easy to get away with half-truths and small lies without the majority of the national audience noticing — assuming a good deal of Americans don’t stay tuned for post-debate analysis.

    So, instead of allowing candidates to monologue for minutes unchallenged, the moderator should actually serve as a participant. The moderator would force candidates to either be specific and honest or risk looking like an idiot. This would turn debates into a meaningful dialogue.

    This solution presents its own problems, specifically finding a moderator both educated enough and unbiased enough to hold a fair debate. But considering the way governmental incompetence on both sides of the aisle is frustrating more and more people, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone fed up with both candidates.

    Voters might also worry about whether candidates would agree to what could easily turn into a disaster from which there is no return. But any candidate who isn’t willing to submit to the highest level of scrutiny shouldn’t be president to begin with.

    When the job involves representing the nation to the rest of the world, Americans have a right to know all the risks. If a person wants to keep secrets, let them do it outside the Oval Office.

    — Jason Krell is the copy chief for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @Jason_Krell.

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