What's at Stake
Which brings me back to Al Gore's sighing. Was that really more important than what Gore was sighing about, i.e., the fact that the Republican Party had nominated someone who simply didn't have the knowledge and experience to handle the extraordinarily complex and dangerous job of being the U.S. president?
Often, goofiness captures the U.S. political process, as it did in 2000 and did again on Wednesday night. Electing a president is turned into a fun game of playing theater critic or stand-up comedian, rather than the harder job of evaluating the mettle of the candidates who could step into the Oval Office.
Often, too, people with influence over the outcome indulge their own narrow interests. Pundits and reporters seek to boost their careers by grabbing some centrist "credibility"; activists insist on perfection to the exclusion of reality; voters view their ballot as a way to express their feelings.
Yet, what is at stake in the election of a U.S. president is the possible extermination of all life on the planet. So, the first question to be asked and answered is: Do you want to give this person the nuclear codes?
And, even if the person is not likely to stumble into nuclear annihilation, the second question must be: How will this person handle the very powerful U.S. military? Will there be unnecessary wars that inflict unnecessary death and destruction?
A third question is: What will this possible president do regarding longer-term existential threats like global warming? Then, of course, there are important questions about the federal role in shoring up the economy and protecting vulnerable citizens.
Based on your experiences and ideologies, there will different answers to these questions -- and no answer is guaranteed to be right. Like all hiring decisions, there are many unknowns in the election of a president. But it doesn't help when the press corps joins in the silliness.
Yeah, sure, President Obama could have been tougher, but didn't the pundits notice that Mitt Romney was behaving like he forgot to take his Ritalin? There was a frenetic weirdness, something approaching instability, to his performance. Not to mention the repeated lying and misrepresentations.
After the debate -- and before I heard the instant analysis -- my primary thought had been: Do the American people really want to turn over the nuclear codes to that guy? And, as popular as the "Leave It to Beaver" show was, do they want to invite Eddie Haskell into their homes the next four or eight years?
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