Surviving the Game

Guest: Rita Kirk, Chair of the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Program, Southern Methodist University I had an interesting opportunity last Friday night. Rather than watching the debate on television, I listened on XM Radio as I traveled. My sixteen year old son and I had a great opportunity to listen, free from visual distractions and to interpret meaning based solely on verbal expression. In many ways, I felt like a part of that mythic event during the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960 where the winner and loser were viewed differently depending on the medium used. This debate was certainly hard-hitting. As my son remarked, it was as entertaining as watching a football game. That is true if you had a candidate in the "game" that you were rooting for (or against). Yet what I found disturbing about the event was that there seemed to be little connection on the part of either candidate to the listeners or an effort to elevate the debate. Debaters are taught to "attack the proposition not the opposition." It's not nearly as entertaining but certainly more informative. These attacks and counter-attacks do little to permit a vetting of the issues. During the final debate, Americans would be well served if the candidates would give full attention to the values and policies that would guide their administrations, if elected. Voters cannot guess what issues the next president will face. What the candidates can do is tell us how they approach issues and what guides them in their decision process. If future policy reflects what happened in Friday's debate, Americans will hear a lot about who is to blame and little about what sacrifice needs to be made to resolve the problems we will face.