If there is any question as to who won the Second Presidential Debate as the two candidates took to the stage at Hofstra University, there is absolutely no question about who lost: anyone who took time out of their busy lives to watch this travesty.
From the outset, the Town Hall format decided upon promised to be a deviation the ordinary, offering a different look at the process and the candidates vying for the most important office in the country, trying to court not only the votes of the people but their trust also. What onlookers were treated to though was something perhaps even more unexpected: two grown men engaging in perhaps one of the most petty and juvenile fights seen so far. Anyone wanting to see a glimpse of the noble or have faith restored in the office that President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are both vying for were given anything but, as both men showed how aggressively un-Presidential they could look.
Without a doubt, politics is an adversarial process; in a democratic system this is even more apparent. With no prizes for second place, it’s winner take all with no holds barred. Negative campaigning, ads that distort one’s opponent and their policies, these sort of things are common place; so common place that even as the general public says they abhor it or that they don’t elect a candidate based on them, they find it hard to wash it from their minds when it comes time to cast their ballots. Yet through the yelling matches, the talking over each other, the aggressive one liners, and everything else seen tonight in Hempstead by both Romney and Obama, this was something different entirely as they let their worse nature take hold of them through the course of the debate. Neither side has much to be proud of as they jaded the political process a little more, helping contribute to the general cynicism of people already distrustful of politicians.
This was partisan politics at its worst. Choosing to appeal solely to their base, if even that, Governor Romney and President Obama gave no reason, no sound argument as to why anyone besides their own respective party should vote for them in the critical last few weeks before the election. Though neither one of them could come across looking weak if they wanted to win this debate, they took it beyond the aggressive to the obnoxious, turning it into nothing more than two spoiled children screaming for the nation to pay attention to them so they could give their side of the story in the hopes of avoiding punishment, each whining for more time.
As for the moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley, for as much as the first debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, was criticized, she was more than willing to let the entire thing devolve right before the eyes of the viewers. The questions selected had to leave one to wonder “If those truly were the best that they had, how bad were the questions that she didn’t pick to use?” During a time when she had the chance to highlight some of the more vital issues the American people are talking about in the words and the voices of actual Americans, the selection of the obscure that was allowed to overshadow the more palpable problems the nation is facing was ridiculous. Of the 18 questions planned for and the however many that were asked, how a question, for example, that seems as if it was written by an staff member for the Obama campaign got through the vetting process so the two candidates could debate “I’m not George W. Bush” vs. “Yes, you are” boggles the mind and baffles reason.
At certain times she seemed more than content to inject herself into the debate, not as a moderator but so she could make a point for President Obama himself just to make sure it got in there while Governor Romney was speaking. Then, considering the way she let the two men try and talk over each other until whatever either one of them was saying became a jumbled mess, perhaps she felt it was important that someone made a point at some point. Whatever obligation she had to the process and to the viewers seemed to be cast right out the window as she allowed the entire thing to be so denigrated and debased as nothing more than a weak and shallow exercise.
However one may look at it, and whoever the pundits call as the winner, this was not a debate between statesmen or leaders, it was a debate between children. There was no vision, there was no real strength from either one of the Presidential candidates which, during a turning point election where the candidates vary so deeply, is more than a shame, it is a tragedy as a fraud of a debate was perpetrated against the American people. Both sides have a lot to be ashamed about, though it is doubtful they will as they both try to spin what happened tonight.
Whatever the strategy was, it was lost in the fray. Anyone expecting a seminal debate that was going to define the election and the last few weeks of the campaign may have to wait until the final debate, if they’re even tuning in after this debacle.