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Take It from an Old Debater

Since I’m a veteran of a high school varsity debate team, I have a perspective on debates that many may not have. It doesn’t make me an expert, but it does qualify me to have an opinion. Here’s how I saw it.

A commanding, personal presence counts for far less in a real debate than the ordinary person may think. This may be a primary reason why the U. S. Supreme Court requires parties to file written brief, called certiorari before hearing oral arguments in front of the nine justices. According to Wikipedia, “When the Court grants a cert petition, the case is set for oral argument. At this point, both parties file briefs on the merits of the case, as distinct from reasons the parties may urge for granting or denying the cert petition. With the consent of the parties or approval of the Court, amici curiae may also file briefs.”

Because of this, I pay little attention to the looks, the demeanor, the composure or even the eloquence of a debater. I was trained to tune out these extraneous factors and listen very carefully to the definition of terms, the logic of the arguments advanced, the specific relevance and credibility of the evidence cited and the force of the overall case made. I ask these pointed questions: did the debater prove the need, did he present a workable plan, did he prove the benefits of his plan, and did he convince me that he absolutely knew what he was talking about?

First, as to my general sense of the exchange, I came away from the first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama with a clear conviction that one knew what he was talking about and the other knew how to make a good impression. I feel secure with one being at the helm of the most powerful nation in the world, but I have deep reservations and nervousness about the other operating as my Commander-in-Chief. I felt my trust solidified as one put the building blocks of his case together; I felt my mistrust growing as I heard the other piece together his talking points with smooth bridges and contrived connections.

One gave convincing arguments that made sense. The other used all the right terms, but spliced them together in hollow and scripted ways. One cited evidence with great detail which demonstrated his familiarity with his material and his insight into the real situation on the ground. The other handled his material as though he were reading from a hastily acquired library book or an encyclopedia article. The one spoke from experience of visiting foreign countries and interacting with heads of state. The other…well, the other didn’t.

I will not parse the particular arguments—such a treatment may be found in a plethora of blogs and newssites around cyberspace. I listened and I listened hard. I heard what I needed to hear from one. I did not hear it from the other. My confidence soared to new heights in the leadership ability of one. I gained no such confidence in the leadership of the other. In fact, this is what the evening came down to for me. Two speakers did an adequate job behind their lecterns tonight. There was only one leader. I will leave it to the reader to decide which man I had in mind.

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Reader Comments (2)


I enjoy your articles. You speak with truth and knowledge on a variety of subjects. God has truly blessed you tremendously.

I chose not to watch the debates. Why? Neither candidate has anything to say that I want to hear. The debates are not true debates - questions are screened, people hand picked to attend, etc. No one speaks from the heart anymore but from a script. The debates were carefully orchestrated lies.

One has chosen to portray himself as a defender of our nation and protector of our veterans while at the same time voting 6 times in the last 4 years against veteran bills that would have helped our veterans in the areas of schooling, jobs, etc. The other has never fully distanced himself from the mentor who used God as an excuse to spew his racial divisiveness.

One was more fervent than the current president in perpetuating the lie that has degraded our nation and who has sold his soul in seeking the presidency at all costs no matter what he has to do to secure the presidency.

Neither has no leadership ability internationally while one has acknowledged his lack of leadership in international matters by picking as his running mate a seasoned leader. The other picked an individual that proclaims to be "born again" while at the same time abusing her power to seek revenge.

I have never heard any of the candidates profess that they have repented, been baptized in full water immersion in the name of Jesus or filled with the Holy Ghost as evidenced by speaking in tongues. They both profess to pray but how can they hear the voice of God when they don't have his spirit within them? Or better yet, they surround themselves with false prophets.

I could go on and on. I leave it to you to decide who I am speaking about. Be careful in whom you have chosen to believe. After all, it's your reputation and credibility at stake here and not theirs.

Yours in Christ,

An American

October 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAn American

A serious leader does not pick a vice-presidential candidate that is so unaware of the world that she can barely articulate a viewpoint about it. I was first surprised, then disappointed, with Mr. McCain's pick for vice-president, and I suspect that Mr. McCain now regrets that he elevated his pick to such a high status, given her apparent lack of knowledge of the world. She did not even fulfill the office to which she was elected, sadly.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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