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Debatable

Yesterday afternoon I was at a meeting when one of the participants flatly declared s/he wouldn't watch the debate because s/he knew for whom s/he was voting. No need to go through the trauma of watching! I was dismayed. But thinking about it today, I did wonder if the debates are anything more than a punching bag for the media (including dotCommonweal). Moderator Martha Raddatz has been declared the real winner of last night's debate and she certainly kept her cool and herded the VP candidates with poise and calm.Last evening's dotCommonweal commentfest was fun, but in the light of day, it looks surreal. Canada? the Navy? John Kennedy? What was it all about?So did you watch the debate? Will you watch the next two? Are they worth it? If so, what did you learn? intuit? decide? 

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To whomever thinks that Bidden showed Ryan no respect, bringing up car crashes for no reason other than to wound a man who lost his family to one, is disrespect.

Sun Tzu provides a package. The parts work together. Rule 1 is to know your enemy. At times, understanding your enemy may dictate a torrent of flaming rage (rationally planned and executed), not serenity, as the preferred tactic to induce in him the desired response. At other times, the nature of the enemy may be best exploited by guffaws aimed directly at his best efforts (see Biden). The primary objective is to prevail, not to look calm and serene.

Michael Cowtan;You seem to be implying that Ryan's telling the story of Romney visiting and offering consolation to a grieving family who lost several children in a car crash was a deliberate show of disrespect to Biden. I think it was more thoughtless. The Romney-Ryan ticket are desperate to show the human side of Romney.

I think it was deliberate, with the amount of preparation that goes into these things, there is no way that Ryan could not have known. It was supposed to inflame Bidden, and it did not work. How low can they go?

Agree. Deliberate.

Lisa --Your fact-checking idea is a great one. Maybe the debates could be scheduled for two hours, and the fact-checkers' questions could be asked the last 20 minutes. It would cut down on lying and exaggerating enormously both before and during the debates. Of course, they'd lie and exaggerate just as much afterwards, I guess. If a candidate can't weather the stress of a two hour debate, he/she isn't fit for high office.

I like Lisa's fact-checking scheme very much as an example of what I was hoping for earlier: "how to serve best the intended public good starting with a clear view of the communications involved in the 21st century" (10/12 3:11pm). One minor challenge is how to make certain it is absolutely, authoritatively correct in near-real time without benefit of updates, later clarifications, etc. Otherwise, it adds to the post-debate hullabaloo like that going on now for Ryan-Biden and Obama-Romney instead of reducing it.

Who's this Bidden character?

If the Fullam Fact Checker (FFC) evolved to become smart enough, we could do away with those irksome debaters. Just the moderator with the questions and FFC with optimum correct answers.

Jean Raber,Many thanks for the link to the Lee Atwater documentary. I always thought he was creepy, and IMHO he was a major factor in the nasty frat boy turn, the "gotcha" syndrome that has infected American political life.

Lauretta, I was able to watch the whole thing yesterday afternoon on Hulu.com for free. You can browse on over there and search for it if you're interested. I liked the fact that the story was told largely by a good balance of Atwater's friends and frenemies. The man may have been creepy, but he was apparently quite a good schmoozer.

Jean, if it rains tomorrow I might just try to watch it. I noted that Ed Rollins, who is no fool, thought well of Atwater even while acknowledging some of his more brazen behavior.

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.