Thoughts on the Debates

Before I delve into the main point of my blog post, I want to say, R.I.P. George McGovern and Russell Means. McGovern was involved in a variety of laudable causes, such as racial equality, women’s rights, peace, and abolition of conscription. In the last year of his life, he publicly supported gay marriage. While I did not always agree with Means’s words or actions, he did important work publicizing the U.S. government’s longtime mistreatment of Native Americans. I was considering mentioning Donald Trump, but I don’t want to give him the satisfaction, since he craves attention. Anyway, I said a while back that I would be giving commentary on the debates once they were over. So here goes:

  1. I really thought there would be at least one question about gay rights. I was wrong. The issue was avoided completely. This was especially surprising in New York. Same sex marriage is legal there, and Mitt Romney has pledged to support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, so a Romney presidency could be disastrous for gay New Yorkers. I realize that for most Americans, the economy is the most important issue, and that I am highly unusual for thinking that gay rights is the most important. Still, this election could have a serious impact on whether or not millions of Americans are denied equal rights based on an immutable trait, and to see that matter never brought up in the debate was disconcerting.
  2. Speaking of New York, I was surprised that a debate took place there. Given the other debate locations of Colorado and Florida, I was under the impression that the people organizing the debates were planning to set them in swing states. The audience members in New York may have been undecided, but their votes will not impact this election. There is no way that the Empire State is going to vote for anyone but Obama in this election, and because of the way the Electoral College is set up, Obama is guaranteed to get all thirty-one of New York’s electoral votes whether 55% or 95% of the state’s residents cast their ballots for him.
  3. I nearly had a heart attack during the first debate. President Obama seemed to be not all there, leaving Romney to handily defeat him. Obama seemed rusty compared to Romney, who was only recently removed from primary debates, likely had less time to prepare than Romney due to running the country, and was presumably disgruntled about having to work during his anniversary. I went to bed hoping that the president would come back swinging in the following two debates. I was not disappointed. Polls indicated that Americans tended to think Obama had won the second and third debates, and I am inclined to agree. Thus, Obama went 2-1 against Romney. Furthermore, he likely benefitted by winning the second and third, rather than the first and second, because it leaves his good performances fresher in viewer’s minds.
  4. The Biden-Ryan debate is unlikely to have any impact on the election, as I said in a previous post, but I thought I should mention it anyway. Despite supporting the Democratic ticket, I honestly thought that Ryan would demolish Biden in this debate. As was the case with my prediction about a question on gay rights, my prediction was incorrect. Biden came out swinging and held his own against the Republican vice presidential candidate, actually doing much better than Obama had in his first debate with Romney. With all due respect to the late, great Joe Frazier (while I know next to nothing about most sports, I know some about boxing and mixed martial arts), Biden could have been nicknamed “Smoking Joe” on that night.
  5. I am going to give readers a surprise. I did not find Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment objectionable. He was basically saying that he had wanted to increase the number of women in his Cabinet and tried to do this by practicing a form of affirmative action that took gender into account but did not involve quotas. So much as I dislike Romney, it sounds like he did the right thing here.
  6. In the event, Heaven forbid, that Romney is elected president, I really hope that he will keep his promise not to cut taxes for the rich. At one time, Republicans believed that high amounts of spending had to be balanced by taxes to keep from foisting debt onto future generations. When Lincoln fought the Civil War, he signed a law authorizing an income tax. If George W. Bush had been fighting the Confederacy, he would have probably tried to pay for it with a loan from China. Well, actually, Karl Rove would have probably told him to avoid fighting the Confederacy, so as to appeal to social conservatives. So since I don’t see the war hawk Romney significantly decreasing federal spending, he had better cover the tab by keeping taxes on the rich at a reasonable level.
  7. I was disappointed but not surprised during the foreign policy debate that neither candidate really tried to address the issue of America’s belligerent, reckless, interventionist military policy. Since the War of 1812, presidents from Madison to Bush and even, much as I like him, Obama, have waged wars against countries that did not attack us. We have waged wars supposedly for human rights while abusing our own citizens. It cannot continue. We have been endowed by God or Mother Nature, whichever you believe in, with one planet that can sustain life, and the fact that humans have not completely destroyed the Earth through warfare and pollution by now is a pretty good argument for the existence of an active, benevolent deity. But if we are to avoid nuclear Armageddon, we must adopt a new foreign policy. Under this policy, we will cut off trade with nations that have bad human rights records and work to oust them from the U.N. and the Olympics. However, unless a nation attacks the U.S. or is proven to have plans to do so, we should never go to war with them.
  8. Piggybacking off of #6, Romney claimed that the United States Navy was the smallest it had been since 1916 and that this was unacceptable. PolitiFact labeled this claim this as bogus, but I think it raises a good question. Why, precisely, would it be so bad if that were true? The size of the U.S. Navy expanded in 1917, because Woodrow Wilson launched an unnecessary war to defend American economic interests and claimed he was interested in promoting freedom and democracy. Wilson was a Democrat, so by seemingly indicating that he views World War I as necessary, Romney missed an opportunity to lay the blame for one of the biggest foreign policy disasters in U.S. history at the feet of the Democratic Party.
  9. I would also like to have seen more discussion of civil liberties in at least one of the debates, because it is an important issue that has received little attention from either party. But to the consternation of myself and my fellow ACLU members, the topic once again received little attention during the debates. Again, much as I like President Obama, I have to confess that there doesn’t seem to be that much difference between him and Romney in this area.
  10. Conclusion: These debates did not even make me hesitant about my choice to vote for President Obama. Of course, in order for me to have become hesitant, Obama would have had to have changed his position on gay rights, which never happened. And in order for me to be open to be voting for Romney, the former governor would have had to have said he supported equal rights for gay people, including marriage equality.

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