Saturday, December 8, 2007

Another Not So Different Youtube Debate

The republican debate spotlighted, as all televised debates do, the 60 second, shallow, beauty pageant responses to deep and complex questions. If it were possible to sum up these issues in less then a few minutes then it would matter who was president. It is however impossible to explain the complexity of immigration, economic impact of taxes, or foreign credibility capital in anything less then an hour per topic. The people who most often least understand the issues, often are best at using the short attention format to make themselves look better.

Think about it this way. Imagine that you had two people that felt compelled that they had to supply an answer to your question. Say your question was “should I have heart surgery or not?” In this example let us say that the candidates that you have debating your most important question are George Clooney (a very famous TV doctor) or C. Walton Lillehei (The father of modern open heart surgery.) In this scenario George wants your vote and he can’t just say he doesn’t know. He knows nothing about heart surgery. He can freely give the quick answer of “yes” if that is what your doctor told you, then yes do it. Pretty quick and easy. Now Dr. Lillei would start by addressing the fact that 20% ( this is just fictional not factual information.) of all heart surgeries are not necessary. Just explaining the raw facts consume his 30 seconds. He didn’t even get a chance to discuss the “if/ then’s” required to apparently answer the question. George then goes on the attack and says, “look, he didn’t even answer your question! He doesn’t know.” So whose advice would you listen to? The TV doctor who delivered a concise and clear 30 second answer or the Dr. who really didn’t answer your question?

The “Yes or No” answers don’t work out well either. What if a candidate got drilled with the question, “Is it true that you once forced kids to spend the night in a barn cold, naked, and in the dark?” If the candidate answered “yes” and nothing more, then the average viewer would be appalled. The problem is that if you dig deeper, you would find that the candidate was a goat farmer. A goat’s offspring are called “kids”. So if the candidate had said “no” he would have been lying. That would have been broadcast and exemplified as a character flaw.

A real life example of using lack of full disclosure against a candidate can be found during the opening minutes of the Nov. 28th debate when Giuliani said that Romney, “hired illegal immigrants to do his lawn care.” The truth is that Romney hired a lawn care company. That company hired illegal immigrants. With 20 million illegals in this country almost all of us have some kind of connection to illegal labor. However Giulian was using the short format knowing that getting time to explain that would be impossible and only partly received.

There are a few other unanswered assertions. One thing I detest is the statement, “we shouldn’t punish the children for the actions of their parents.” First of all, the children are going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place anyway. If you deport the parents of illegal immigrant children, then they will suffer one of two fates. They will either have to travel back to their country of origin or they will have to be cared for by “the system”.

For those who have reached adulthood as an illegal the logic seems simple: Be happy you got an education and the benefit of offered by American living for those 18 years. I hope you didn’t squander it by being in a gang or not getting a solid education. If you became something useful like a specialized engineer or a doctor, we just may see you back here real soon. But for now, get to the back of the line.

For those children whose parents get caught here, pretty much the same rhetoric applies. Sorry you didn’t get all the way through school, but hey, you are healthier, smarter, and better equipped then your Mexican counterparts. Now if you are a citizen by our current laws, your parents have two choices. They can take you back to Mexico with them, or they can leave you here to fight your way through the child service system. Good luck.

This is just one issue in which the impact can nit be explained in a 30 second sound bite. All of the issues covered that night are not shallow and defined. National debt, taxes, subsidies, and other financial issues are extremely deep. Change one and most of the others are affected. The gun control issue people often have the right idea for the wrong reasons. Iraq and other current administration policies are well defined but have been so market distorted that you would actually need a dialog with each audience member to explain the flaws in their ingrained belief system.

So please, somebody come up with a debate format that will let us know more about the lives, thoughts and intentions of our future rulers then we know about the latest American Idol survivor. I personally recommend this debate format.

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