Preparing For The Debates

Friday night, September 26, will be the first formal debate between John McCain and Barack Obama.  The event will be held at the University of Mississippi, and will be hosted by Jim Lehrer.

Thankfully, Lehrer is already established enough that he won’t try to be another Tim Russert.

At this point, I think it’s helpful to resurrect the list of practical candidate questions we discussed back in May.  These questions came from a a conference that was held at the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.  It’s worth simply revisiting the list:

  1. Can you share some examples of when you were a catalyst who brought groups with polarized opinions together so that all voices were at the table?
  2. Tell us about a high-performing team that you’ve built. What are the most important principles you’d follow in governing and leading your senior White House team?
  3. In the past, how have you responded to, evaluated, and learned from the mistakes – your own and those of your team?
  4. The U.S. ranks first in incarceration and 18th in high school graduation. What leadership skills do you bring to the challenge of reversing these numbers?
  5. What are your five core values and how do they shape how you lead?
  6. Tell us about a time when your judgment has been tested in crisis. What do you want us to appreciate about your judgment?
  7. The internet and technology have flattened the political playing field, allowing for collective decision making in new ways. How will you balance our ability to have a more participatory democracy with the need for executive decision-making?
  8. Young people have engaged in this election in greater numbers than ever before. How will you keep them engaged?
  9. Many of the hardest decisions in the White House won’t be consensus decisions. What will inform your decision making?
  10. What experiences have you had that have helped you deeply understand the mindset and values of another culture?
  11. In what ways will you help Americans realize the challenges we face and do the hard work of overcoming them together?
  12. The role requires decisiveness. Share some examples of your ability and willingness to be decisive.
  13. How will you create an environment for innovation within your leadership team?
  14. As the transition occurs, you’re not going to get the kind of help you want, as quickly as you want it. Will you describe how you would work in a bipartisan way to speed up the confirmation process so that your office can begin to get some things done?
  15. Do you have the courage to be lonely?

Unfortunately, I can pretty much predict the sort of questions that will actually be asked:

  1. Who is responsible for the current economic situation?
  2. What should Congress do about the economy?
  3. What will you do about the economy?
  4. Why are you lying in your campaign ads about your opponent?
  5. How soon will you bring all of our military members home from all points on the globe and shut our borders for good?
  6. Aside from “lipstick”, what other words or phrases are now off-limits?
  7. What kind of judge will you appoint?  Pro- or anti- Roe v. Wade?

The American people will NOT get the kind of information they need to make an informed decision.  This will be a classic circus with the media maintaining control of the agenda and the candidates getting little more than a few shots at each other (we should keep count of how many times the each candidate answers not the question asked but the one they want to answer).  We would have been better served by a town hall style of interaction.  Of course, such an approach would certainly favor McCain, since Obama has demonstrated he cannot stay out of trouble when he is deviated from his script.

So, break out the popcorn and gather around the magic box as we analyze the mediocre drivel we will be fed.  It’s not much, but it’s what we got!

About the Author

Mr. Smith is the Publisher of The Conservative Reader. He is Partner/Owner of Ambrosia Web Technology as well as a Systems Architect for Wells Fargo. Art hold a degree in Computer Science from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and is a political blogger at the Des Moines Register. Art's views are purely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wells Fargo.


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