So Who Won the Debate? — North Carolina
I felt fortunate to watch the debate last Tuesday night.
The questions were brief and precise. The moderator was fair. Even the debaters were polite to one another without compromising their conviction toward differing points of view. When the moderator told a debater that time was up, he politely yielded.
There were no cheap shot insults. Starting at 7 p.m., the public learned the differences between the candidates on a broad range of issues and are now better informed before casting their ballot.
Then, the gubernatorial debate between Pat McCrory and Walter Dalton was over. By 9 p.m., it was time for chaos between the candidates for president. What a mess!
In the presidential debate, President Obama came out angry and aggressive. Like Vice President Biden before him, he snickered and leaned forward in his chair, ready to interrupt and pounce. CNN’s Candy Crowley, the moderator, even took sides against Mr. Romney when he and she disagreed over how the president handled the Libyan crisis. It was a free-for-all with the mainstream media and the president on one side, Gov. Mitt Romney on the other.
What I learned from the presidential “Hassle at Hofstra” was similar to that reported by the mythical 110-year-old man just before he died. When queried concerning what the man had learned from his longevity, he replied, “Not a damned thing.”
I could express my view that Mr. Romney beat the pants off the president. Yes, I believe Mr. Romney was more poised and presidential. He battled two against one and kept his cool.
The president’s debate performance, along with that of Joe Biden the previous week, helped me imagine the two of them negotiating nuclear weapons with Iran, human rights with China, or peace with Israelis and Palestinians.
Each might snicker and offer words of condescension to the dictators visiting the Oval Office. They would be impolite and singlemindedly aloof from constructive discussion. The dictators would stare in amazement and go home with the same attitudes of belligerence they brought with them.
Even domestically, how can true bipartisanship occur among two houses of Congress and the Executive Branch when every instinct in the White House points to self-righteous indignation?
But the more important thing to learn from the presidential debate was how poorly it was run and how much better it could have been.
The North Carolina Association of Broadcasters produced that second gubernatorial debate just before the presidential brawl. They chose Shannon Vickery to moderate. She showed a firm “military bearing,” leaving no doubt as to who was in charge. When she said “Time up,” neither candidate dared to challenge her, because of both the tone of her voice and the fairness she exhaled with every brief syllable she pronounced.
Martha Raddatz, the vice-presidential debate moderator, as well as the presidential debate moderators Jim Lehrer and Candy Crowley, ought to be stripped of their salaries and forced to watch the show moderated by the underpaid Ms. Vickery.
They could also learn from panelists Larry Stogner, Jon Evans and Paul Cameron about preparing questions that are brief and designed to elicit the most information in the shortest amount of time.
The presidential candidates could also learn a lot about both respect and good manners by reviewing the tape of McCrory and Dalton, two rivals who did not sacrifice dignity for discourse.
Of course, I want my Republican candidates to win the battle for both Raleigh’s Governor’s Mansion and Washington’s Executive Mansion.
But, what if my dear mother were alive and asked, as she often did, “Can’t you say something good about the other side?” My answer would be that either Walter Dalton or Pat McCrory would make a better president than Barack Obama, simply because each understands how to disagree without being disagreeable.
As Tar Heels, we ought to be proud of the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters. We ought to be proud of Ms. Vickery and prouder still of Mayor McCrory and, yes, even Lt. Gov. Dalton.
Clearly, as leader of our local Republican Party, I could fill this column with praises for conservative McCrory and cuts to his liberal opponent. But, as I watched their debate and juxtaposed it to the debate for president, my only thoughts were how great it is to call myself a Tar Heel.
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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