Irk Du Jour: Answer the Question, Dammit!
(This image is for you, Eric.)
I didn't watch the tape of the VP debate yet, (I was attending a b-day party that night), but I noticed something in both presidential debates that irks me quite a bit.
Why do the moderators let the candidates get away with responses that simply do not answer the questions that have been posed? I think Kerry did this a few times, but Bush did it numerous times in both debates. It frustrates me terribly! In order for a question to make the list, it must have been deemed to have some merit, and therefore, deserves a direct response.
I was so aggravated after the first presidential debate that I copied the transcript from NPR, pasted it into a Word document, and furiously began highlighting sections and adding notations in places where the responses were less than satisfying, if the questions were actually addressed at all. For example, the very first question in the first debate, after opening statements, was directed to Bush:
MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, two minutes. Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?Bush refuses to even acknowledge this hypothetical question. The rest of his response is rambling and unrelated. He talks about "the enemy" and refers to recent events in Russia while doing so, leaving us to a very vague interpretation of who "they" are.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to win, because the American people know I know how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to lead. I have -- I understand everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions that I've made. And I've made some tough decisions.
This was a simple yes or no question, and perhaps not a very important one, since it's just a matter of conjecture on anyone's part. But it was an opportunity to address the scare-tactic statement made by his VP which was referenced by the question.
A straight and solid answer that supported Cheney's weak refutation that he didn't intend to scare potential Kerry voters might have made some of us think a little better of the two of them. Then Bush could have used the rest of his time to put us to sleep with the same canned diatribe that so many of us have grown so tired of. But he didn't do that. Instead, he indirectly affirmed that intention by not directly addressing what was asked, then droning on and on with the same rap about all that he is doing to fight "them" and why. And, he closes by leaving us with another neologism: "That's why they're fighting so vociferously." (What do you think Bush would score on the SAT if he had to take it today?)
When you read the debate transcript, you experience the content very differently than when you watch the rapid fire of questions and responses, complete with a plethora of visual distractions. When you read it, an activity I highly recommend, you have time to contemplate and evaluate each statement without the intrusion of the next. You can easily see and take note of occasions where responses beg other questions, where opportunities for substance are substituted with empty platitudes, and where statements of fact are distorted in their interpretation. Both candidates do this , but I find the tendency to be disproportionately high with Bush relative to Kerry. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that Bush has over three years of presidential decisions to explain and many of those can't be addressed forthrightly without betraying the questionable judgment that he refuses to acknowledge.
One of the many examples of Bush statements that begged a fundamental question (at least for me) came in the continuation of the aforementioned response. As Bush went on, he said, "But people know where I stand. People out there listening know what I believe, and that's how best it is to keep the peace."
I can only ask: should we accept our presidential logician's premise that declaring war is the best way to keep peace?
Is declaring war the best way to keep peace???
Get a transcript of last night's debate here. Analyze to your heart's content.