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I’d like to respond to Matthew Gagnon’s recent column about presidential debates. His view is that, if we’re honest, we’ll probably agree with what he thinks. At risk of persuading him that I’m dishonest, I must disagree.
I do agree that political debates are no longer of the caliber of Lincoln/Douglas or Kennedy/Nixon. Some of that may flow from the character of the politicians and their advisors who are more into optics than substance. Moderators could go a long way to steering debates in a more meaningful direction. Too often, news organizations are only seemingly interested in creating arguments at the expense of educating the public. Meantime, there are, unfortunately, many viewers who come to the debates with pre-formed opinions that have little to do with a search for solutions or an effort to learn about the candidates’ positions.
Finally, the debates, as poorly run as they may be, do offer an opportunity to assess the character of candidates. How they behave is a key indicator of how they’ll lead and in what direction. Recent history is eloquent testimony to this point.