Reflections on the Debate

I participated in a public debate in West Virginia when I was in grad school. No, I wasn’t the disputant (the one debating) or the moderator (the one officiating). I wasn’t even the time-keeper (the one, well, keeping time). I was the guy who sat up on the stage with the overhead projector flashing the slides when one or the other called out, “May I see Slide #317J please.” There were hundreds of slides, so this was actually a big job. Maybe my subsequent fascination with PowerPoint was born on that polemic platform!

The debate got pretty ugly pretty quickly. The moderators kept jumping in with “point of order” objections. The disputants constantly tried to outdo one another’s sarcasm, even to the point of drawing cartoon caricatures of each other on their slides. (Of course, the slides were flashed on the screen with a crisp and professional efficiency). At one point, the disputants called each other “the devil.” After the debate was over, both sides claimed that great victories had been won for the cause of truth. Actually, people came away from the debate having what they believed before the debate confirmed and reinforced. I remember the whole thing being rather embarrassing.

I watched part of the Obama-McCain debate last night.  So... what did we learn from the debate? McCain is feisty.  Obama is smooth?  That each of them has “a plan” to make things better.., though they are hazy on exactly what those things are.  Surely, the only people coming out of that debate with strong feelings for one candidate or another were people who had gone into the debate with those strong feelings.  


My take on the debate is summed up by this clip from Pat Paulsen and his presidential run back in 1968.  Paulsen was a comedian whose satire on the political process often hit pretty close to home.    He also perfected the ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth.  And is it just me, or did Paulson look a lot like Ron Paul... who also may still be running for president somewhere?