Tonawanda News


September 28, 2012

Debate? You can't handle debate


Tonawanda News —

There is a surfeit of information these days about presidential candidates, offering the daily diary of who went where. Vice presidential candidate Ryan visited a steel mill Tuesday in Cincinnati. Didn’t do anything extraordinary — rode the campaign bus into the plant, made the usual speech, rolled out — but it was news, because it was easy to cover.

Give me something meaty, something like an incisive question from a news analyst trained in the art of reasoning, followed by a sharply reasoned answer or a stammering, beads-of-sweat response from a candidate.

Doesn’t happen often enough, by design.

You could also give me a set of panelists who don’t have initials like NBC or CNN on their paychecks. Find an articulate scientist to inquire about global warming policy. Get a genuine economist to ask about the economy, or the best CPA in Washington to dig into candidates’ tax returns and come back with questions. 

Then arrange for someone from ESPN to score the fight, as they say in boxing, counting every “uh,” every deer-in-the-headlights look, every evasive attempt to direct hard questions into answers that lead to “what’s right about America!” 

Now that would be a debate somehow worthy of the name.

It could be argued (debaters argue, see) that voters do not want to see one candidate demolish the other, or see one candidate left twitching in a puddle of mistakes and inadequate responses.

Running for president is all about trust, about making the sale, closing the deal, before anyone even mentions Israel or the deficit or the cost of gasoline. 

I would jump at the chance to watch and hear experts ask quality questions and demand quality answers, which won’t happen next week. Both presidential candidates logically tend to favor supportive interviewers, which is probably why the president is on the Leno and Letterman shows as often as he is. My president, or next president, will have to deal with Chinese, Russian, Iranian, Israeli and other hostile debaters, as well as citizens who want to know why their country is accelerating into something they no longer recognize. The candidates now are like football teams who have played too many easy opponents.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at

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