Having suffered through 3 of the 4 debates, I thought that the following observations were in order. First, despite their improved efforts, the moderators have yet to make the candidates answer the questions asked. This refusal to answer questions is very frustrating to us teachers because all too often, we see this kind of behavior from our students who do not prepare. What does their refusal say about our next President and our future? Another frustrating experience is that we always have to wait for the debate to end before fact checkers can verify what the candidates said. Issuing false statements is just another means that candidates can use to refuse to answer questions.
What we need for our Presidential debates are not your normal run of the mill moderators. What we need are enhanced moderators. Enhanced moderators will not only be allowed to use extraordinary means to get candidates to answer questions, they will be able to provide instant fact checking. Possible techniques that our enhanced moderators could use to get candidates to answer questions include: shutting off a candidate's microphone, giving a candidate an electric shock, or using waterboarding. These techniques should also work equally well with candidates who make false statements.
But we voters are not above criticism. We need to realize that we have allowed ourselves to become, what Noam Chomsky calls, a "managed society"- that adheres to "strict doctrinal requirements."- 1 An indicator that what Chomsky is saying is true is the range of views that are expressed by both the candidates and the media. If we picture Obama as the left upright of a goal post and McCain as the right upright, we might get an idea of how managed we are. That is because we the voters are regarded as place kickers and are told that the only kicks that count are those that are to the right of Obama and to the left of McCain. Thus, no other kicks count.
Currently, McCain's view of war, especially the War On Iraq, is basically the official policy of the Bush Administration. Obama's view is different from McCain's view only in that he is promising a possible timeline for withdrawing combat troops. What Obama is not promising is the withdrawal of all US troops from that country. In addition, Obama refuses to question either the legality or morality of our invasion of Iraq or of any other foreign policies. In addition, Obama denounces those who challenge the morality of our policies such as when he denounced Rev Wright for his criticisms of the US. Obama explicitly stated that no US action could be equated with terrorism.
The views expressed by the media also indicate that our society is managed. When one of the most liberal members of the mainstream media, Keith Olberman, ridicules a Rev. Wright news conference without addressing Wright's concerns, we are again told where the left upright belongs. All other views are either kept from the public or are marginalized.
We should also ask what has become of the Peace Movement in the US. Since the 2006 elections, attendance at the major demonstrations has steadily declined. It seems that hope for ending the Iraq War is being placed on electing Democrats rather than on activism as the Democrats are promising us that they will end the war. Thus the efforts that could be put into demonstrating are being redirected. Considering how managed our society is, this change in the Peace Movement's efforts could be seen as self-sabotage.
The election we are participating in is vague. We are told to cast votes based on an appeal of image than on knowledge of the issues. We are told to choose either the candidate who will patriotically defend this country without asking how we can best keep this country safe or the candidate who promises change without examining the change he is promising. Thus it seems that when it comes to reading the fine print on each candidate, most of us have preferred to join President Bush when he chose to read the book "My Pet Goat"- as a crisis was unfolding.