Watching The Presidential Debates


The first of three debates between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney was held on Wednesday night.  For days, every pundit, political expert and campaign adviser has weighed in on it.  I think even the local weatherman in Denver has reported on the position of the moon and the possibility of rain.  I’ve had CNN droning on in the background for a good part of the day and listened as all of them gave their pre-game predictions.   Wolf Blitzer informed me that the Romney’s had finished dinner at The Cheesecake Factory and were headed to the University of Denver.  I hope they had some cheesecake because it really is good.   It was reported that the Obamas were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary today and had to postpone a more personal and private celebration in light of this prior commitment.  I would like to extend my congratulations to them both.  I’ve always thought that October was a lovely time of year for a wedding.

This will be eleventh presidential election for which I’ve been eligible and privileged to vote.  It also means that I’ve sat through so many of these debates that I’ve lost count.  My choices for President when I could first cast a ballot were Richard Nixon and George McGovern, and we were still losing too many young soldiers in Vietnam.  The country wasn’t in a very good place and we were at odds over just about everything.   I don’t remember much of what was said by the candidates during the debates over these past forty years.   All that really comes to mind are what the main stream media refers to as gaffes and zingers.  I, like many of those who have watched, remember brief moments that either made us laugh or made us simply cringe.    Although I can’t really say that I have any independent memory of it, having been a little too young to care, I’ve seen the images from the 1960 debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy.  Nixon broke into a flop sweat that made him look as if he was a suspect in the middle of a police interrogation.  The charming and handsome prince of Camelot sailed right through it.  It wasn’t what decided that election and Kennedy’s winning, but it sure didn’t do much to help Nixon.

There were other instances which the media is calling “game changers”.    President Ronald Regan joked that he wouldn’t hold Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience against him”.   Michael Dukakis seemed nonplussed regarding the hypothetical rape and murder of his wife.  Dan Quayle tried to compare himself with Jack Kennedy which resulted in a resounding verbal backhand from Senator Lloyd Bentsen, who sharply reminded him that he was “no Jack Kennedy”.   George H.W. Bush was caught looking at his watch during a debate and Al Gore, in a ill-chosen display of exasperation, just sighed.

Are they game changers?  Maybe, but I doubt it.   I think that there isn’t much that a candidate can say or do during a debate that’s going to sway the minds of many voters, especially this late in the game and especially during this election cycle.  Everything I’ve seen and read is telling me that Americans have made up their minds about who they want to lead the Country for the next four years.  We know where both of these men stand on the issues and very little new, if anything, will be learned during these three forums.   There will be what the media calls a “bump” in approval ratings for one of the candidates, but those are usually short-lived.  I’m not diminishing the role of the undecided voters, although I don’t know who they are or where they’ve been.  Saturday Night Live did a sketch devoted to their confusion and concerns, and Bill Maher simply decided that they must be “dipshits”.

That won’t stop every form of media from weighing in on these debates.  As soon as they’re over, the reporters will leap into action.  They’ll parse out every word, as if the entire time the candidates and the moderators were speaking in Farsi, leaving us in need of an interpreter.   When they’re done with the candidates’ actual statements and responses, the media will move on to explain why each of them wore a particular color of tie, why they blinked or moved their hand a certain way.  That’s what’s so wonderful about political correspondents – they have psychic super-powers and can read into things that we don’t see or know anything about.  They may even try to convince us that they’re mediums by channeling the thoughts and opinions of presidents who have passed away.  We’re lucky to have them.  In case you were wondering, there were about 3,000 reporters covering the Denver debate.   I’m sure at least one of them could tell us who made the candidates’ suits and what brand of shoes they were wearing.  Others will be available to report on what the First Lady and Mrs. Romney chose as attire, and, when they run out of fashion critiques,  they could also tell us what each outfit cost.  Then everybody can meet back at The Cheesecake Factory and let us know how good their dessert was.

The Huffington Post listed the top 100 Twitter feeds that we should follow during the debates.  That number alone made me dizzy – never mind all of the individual tweeters who weigh in with their various comments, some of which may actually be polite and insightful.

The next two debates for president are scheduled for October 16th, at Hofstra University in New York and October 22nd, at Lynn University in Boca Raton.  There’s one vice presidential debate on October 11th, at Centre College in Kentucky.   I’ll watch each and every one of them, because I’m a news and political junkie.  I still find the entire process fascinating, even if it seems to have become a whole different animal during my lifetime.  I won’t do a play-by-play for you or interpret anything that any of the candidates have to say.  You don’t need me for that.   Frankly, we’ll all get more of that than we’ll be able to endure without going crazy.  I like to think that most of us are smart and informed people, who have done our own due diligence –  something that hasn’t yet dawned on all of those talking and spinning heads who think we need their version of “Debates for Dummies”.  When all is said and done, the real winners or losers are us, and we’ll decide which is which.


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35 Responses to Watching The Presidential Debates

  1. klmh says:

    I am glad I watched the debate only to know that Romney isn’t the doofus I thought he was. He did a very good job, imo and came off well. 2nd will be more interesting if they can cattle prod Obama into action/reaction.
    This post has nothing to do with the way I plan to vote, but just wanted to give my opinion.

  2. I’d like to thank The Huffington Post for helping me to prove my point – in record time.

  3. Kaereste says:

    Romney was really impressive. Facts versus marketing claims.

    I’ve occasionally pictured Obama’s team literally stamping bad economic reports with Giant Smiley Faces. Many (or most people) prefer smiley faces to reality.

    I’m from a family that meets challenges head on. I would much rather get behind a leader with a realistic battle plan than follow the leader of the happy little lemmings over …. the cliff.

    Thanks for the blog Empress.

  4. I agree with you the debates are probably not going to change anyone’s mind. I can’t imagine anyone being undecided at this point, but it must be true because there are people on television admitting it. I didn’t watch the debates, but my husband did and he said he thought Romney did a better job. I told him that if he tuned into FOX News, they would probably agree with him and if he tuned into MSNBC, they probably would not. Such is the political world we live in today.

    • Actually, MSNBC including Chris Matthews, Rachael Maddow and many others agreed that Romney performed much better. Obama just didn’t look assertive, didn’t point out Romney’s former positions, which have changed quite a bit since the fallout of his 47 % video was outed….everyone was wondering what the heck Obama was doing not challenging Romney on practically anything.

      • MSNBC did indeed declare Romney the winner of that debate. It was watching Matthews dissolve into a pool of over the top frustration, as if someone had just killed his dog, that worried a lot of people. Big Bird has comported himself with more dignity.

  5. Honey Poo Poo says:

    Prezident Oblama thought he was gonna be yucking it up on The View tonight.

  6. Donna says:

    LOL my hubby asked me if I took my blood pressure meds I was screaming at the television at Romney’s lies, especially when he interrupted the President while he was talking. Thank God I was bare foot or else I would have thrown my shoe at the television. (LOL I did notice that every time Romney spoke he constantly blinked)

    • Donna, If I sound a little cynical and jaded, it’s because I am. Watching candidates during election cycles, from those who want to be the local probate judge right on up to the highest office in the land, these men and women will say a lot of things that not only obfuscate but throw facts and truth right out the window. Too many of them have been peeing on our legs and telling us it’s raining.
      I watch debates as if they’re a form of theater. If candidates look directly into the lens of the camera and say something with enough passion and conviction, they look like they actually believe what they’re saying. They’re rehearsed, prepped and scripted with talking points to within an inch of their lives, and it’s a bipartisan problem.
      We tend to view and hear things from the perspective of our own biases. That’s what becomes our truth. I couldn’t agree more with you about doing our own fact-checking, but lately it’s become a frustrating full-time job.
      I hope you’ll take the time to read the article I’ve linked here. It’s a very good analysis of candidates, voters and how facts fit in the mix.

  7. Donna says:

    Every time they mention Social Security and Medicare are “Entitlements” I blow up. They are in TRUST accounts, trillions of dollars were “borrowed” from these TRUST accounts with very little interest, the monies are almost due so they want to privitize it so the monies due willl not be paid back.

  8. Donna says:

    Me again! I wanted to b**ch slap that smirk off Romney’s face when he mentioned China, he outsources jobs to China!

  9. thedesigndiva2 says:

    I must admit..i’d rather watch 2 sock monkeys thumb wrestle…I have 2 AWESOME friends that FULL TIME research research research both candidates…I get my info from them weekly.. and I TRUST their input and opinions..
    carry on…
    hugs and peace

    off to walk the streets !!!

  10. Baroness Beachcomber says:

    I was watching the Today show this morning and saw clips of Chris Mathews. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Poor guy, he needs to calm down.

    • Chris did look like he was headed for a meltdown last night. He’s really got to take a deep breath or he won’t survive this election. 😉

      • Belle says:

        Empress, thanks for this great blog. I am a fan but I was shocked at Chris M.’s reaction after the debate. My sister thinks that Matthews & Co. have gone waaaaay out on a limb for the President, and perhaps felt keenly let down.

        • Belle, You’re welcome and I appreciate your comments. I’ve written a few posts criticizing the fact that reporters for the MSM have lost any kind of objectivity regarding politics and candidates. If you toggle between Fox and MSNBC, you’re left wondering if they even watched the same thing – they’re that far apart. Matthews took his own bias to a whole new level in 2008 when he announced how “tingly” he was over then-Senator Obama. As the baroness said upthread, he looked like he was having a heart attack today – not very journalist-like at all. Maybe he should take a vacation and sit this one out. We don’t need cheerleaders or supporters for one side or the other – we need reporters to report the news, not slice and dice it.
          FWIW – I really miss Tim Russert – if he had favorites, he never let it show.

          • Oh, I admired Tim Russert too.

          • Kaereste says:

            Ted Koppel was offered Tim’s job but the network wouldn’t let him bring his producer so the deal fell through.
            We are the losers there. All the Sunday shows are just as awful as the weeknight news celebrity anchor preening hours.

          • I remember watching Tim Russert during the 2008 election. Tim was a solid democrat, which you would know if you read his book (and what a great book it is!) “Big Russ & Me.” I too miss him a lot. What a guy, truly an American hero IMO. Tim was fascinated with Obama’s careful campaigning, which is how he beat Hilary Clinton. He had figured out exactly where he had to win, to pick up the necessary wins in the caucuses/primaries. Hilary hung on way too long – but in the end, Obama outsmarted her. Then he went on to use the same strategy to outsmart McCain. I still remember Russert using maps to show how Obama was going to win, it was very exciting. Although Tim never professed his desire for Obama to win on camera, it was obvious to me. He was just so excited with Obama’s strategy.

            What is sad & frustrating to me is that it doesn’t matter how I vote, or even if I bother to vote, in the presidential election. Only the votes in a few select battleground states will decide this election – as they do in every election. Most people know who they are voting for by now, having decided months or even years ago. How can the polls change as quickly as they do? Who are these fickle respondees to the pollsters, constantly changing their minds?? Kerry & his people were popping champagne, until the Ohio returns made them realize all was lost.

            • bsf, Many moons ago I majored in Political Science and found out very quickly just how inexact the science of polling can be. They’re easily manipulated by simply asking the questions in such a way as to pretty much guarantee a desired response. I’ve also known Frank Luntz for about 30 years, having met him when he was still in college. Love him or hate him, he is a genius when it comes to the business of polling and statistics, turning it into an actual art and becoming a millionaire in the process.
              As Mark Twain said, “there are lies, damned lies and statistics”.

            • Battleground States don’t cause me as big a headache as does the so-called “electoral college”. As much as I think our Founding Fathers had real instances of brilliance, the inclusion of those 538 electors in Art. II of the Constitution was not one of their shining moments.

      • melthehound says:

        Is his leg still tingling?

  11. melthehound says:

    I have to admit, that when I first saw the title of your post, I kind of groaned a bit. I should have known better than that and you have my apology even if you didn’t hear the grown. By now, I don’t think it’s any secret how I feel about politicians, the talking head 24 hour news cycle media, and their constant need to feed us garbage and try to convince us it’s candy. I just view these debates as more of the same. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe there is any such thing as an undecided voter. I knew over 4 years ago who I would be voting for in November 2012- Anybody but him. Question my reasons and even intelligence all you like but nothing I’ve seen, and I certainly could throw these debates into that mix if I had seen them, has changed my mind about that. Since aside from complexion, the two main candidates are exactly alike (all politicians are), The choice is actually very simple as I see it (with regard to undecideds, and Bill Mahr can go phuck himself), if you think BHO has done a good job, vote for him again. Otherwise, vote for the other guy, the anybody but him. At least if the other guy wins, we’ll have a new face to look at. The only difference is, who has bought the winner? Whoever he may be.

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