On Monday, the final presidential debate aired in front of more than 60 million voters. For the last time, two viable presidential candidates stood on the same stage to take jabs at one another and criticize policies, both foreign and domestic, while making a case of how our nation essentially is broken and that they’re the only candidate with the know-how to fix it.
So now that the debates are in the history books, what are some of the takeaways left with voters? Speaking from a personal perspective, very little came of the debates, if anything at all. What I saw was a rehashing of what I had already seen over and over. But of course, I can’t speak for everyone. Some who had been on the fence were persuaded by quick talk and a sense of confidence. Conversely, voters already locked in, so to speak, but watched the debate anyway may have well watched the debate on mute and ad libbed their own thoughts. It’s the first thing we learned. The “debating” aspect of a debate doesn’t matter for anyone who already knows who they’re going to vote for.
Second, body language speaks volumes. We’ve known this for decades – since the Nixon/Kennedy debate in 1960 – but as each of this year’s debates unfolded, body language became more interpretive, particularly during the first and second debates. Millions of eyes fixated on the movements of each man, analyzing and interpreting every motion, every eye gaze, every swallow, head nod and hand gesture for what it was worth. It brings to mind the late comedian George Burns, who’s credited as saying: “Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” To be clear, I don’t believe the winner of the presidency will be determined solely by body language, but I have the sense to know a candidate with the not so cool, calm and collected body language of Rodney Dangerfield getting “no respect” would never see the oval office. At least not as long as there’s television.
We’ve also learned that where there’s a gaffe integrated with the lethal combination of 24-hour news networks and social media, there’s sure to be several days of overreaction that follow. From Big Bird and malarkey, to binders full of women, and horses and bayonets; there was always something to leave a bigger impact in the minds of voters after a debate ... you know, other than the political issues themselves.
Finally, we’re remembering that former President George W. Bush left incredibly deep scars. The Republican party can’t shake themselves of his shadow, even four years after he left office (and arguably seems to have dropped off the face of the earth). Nobody liked the 43rd president. Nobody. During his last days in office, President Bush made a farewell visit to Iraq and when he was speaking at a press conference, an Iraqi reporter slipped off his shoe and hurled it at the president. If this had happened to any other domestic leader, it might have started another war, or in this case, worsened the one we were already fighting. Not so with the former president. In fact, Americans did the opposite, thinking “Ha! That shoe almost got you!” We even criticized the reporter for having bad aim. Such animosity proves to be a burden for the Romney campaign.
I give some credit to Mitt Romney, who’s done a relatively good job in distancing himself from the dispositions of Bush era. Even so, while the name of the former presidents hasn’t come up too often during the debates, he was still brought to the forefront of voters’ minds every time our current President uttered the prase “they want to return us to the policies that got us in this mess in the first place.”
So given all this and still not being quite sure where each candidate stands in every policy, I might just take the advice of Andy Rooney and vote for whose tie I like best.
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