Column: Debates Are About Smarts, Not Bloodshed

This story was written by Joshua Burton, Daily Titan

You know what the problem with this past presidential debate was? No blood was shed. None.

All of the post-debate commentators, be they on CNN, NPR or MSNBC, had similar, if not less extreme opinions. There was no moment when Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama really got fired up at each other.

Lets face it, Obama would have won hands down. The man is younger, stronger and taller. McCain is an old veteran and a former prisoner of war. Hes seasoned, but hes no Rambo. They guy has no fight left in him. He cant even tie his own shoes because of old war wounds.

The fight would have been boring and brief, no way to improve ratings. It was good that they kept it civil.

This means, however, that neither got angry enough to lunge at his opponent with kill-crazy lust in his eyes. What has America come to?

I suppose my real problem is how obvious people are about how they secretly wanted an on-stage fight, be it verbal or physical. There seems to be a prevailing belief that an important quality of a leader is the desire to destroy an enemy whenever he gets the chance. While it may be necessary in wartime situations, Im not sure we need to cheapen the legitimacy of a debate with expectations of Jerry Springer-esque debacles.

Im sick of hearing political pundits (as they like to be called, strangely) cry for more fire or rancor.

Maureen Dowd, a popular New York Times writer and all-around loudmouthed liberal, wrote of Obama: Its not a lecture hall; its a joust. Its not how cerebral you are. Its how visceral you are. You need memorable, sharp, forceful and witty lines.

Basically, Dowd wants good sound-bytes to rile up the Good Morning America crowd. The strong language should be reserved for the press. These are leaders we are talking about. You can say what you want from your corner of the ring, but when a political leader confronts his opponent in an academic setting which is what a debate really is he needs to be smart and cool.

I dont want a president who can be pushed into alarming outbursts. These arent Roman gladiators, nor are these heavyweight boxers. The setting last Friday was that of a civil debate, yet even the moderator seemed to want to incite a two-man riot with comments like say it directly to him, which are pretty much fighting words for anyone older than 50.

Im just determined to get you all to talk to each other, moderator Jim Lehrer said to a sputtering McCain.

This couldnt be further from the truth. If people wanted a talk, they wouldnt be demanding for fiery speech. Everyone knows that when two opinionated people get into an argument neither listens to each other and the arguments grow increasingly more ridiculous.

To be fair, this debate wasnt a strictly academic one. If that were the case, fewer people would have watched the whole thing viewers would have either fallen asleep or switched the channel in disgust.

The point of academic and senate debates is to find the merits and truth of an argument, or so said Jon Bruschke, coach of the award-winning Cal State Fullerton debate team.

In (lofty debates) they would be concerned with what is the truth of any given subject, he said. It would be more centered around information and evidence. In some debates it matters a lot. In some, not so much.

Perhaps Im too academic, but I think presidential debates are too watered down to appeal to specific voting groups. Thats the way the system works, though, and I would rather people watch it than stay uninformed.

Personally, I got what I wanted: two informed people getting to talk to each other in person and not at each other via television avertisements and news reports. We got to hear them disagree in real-time and with intellectual weight.

Go to a boxing match or spend an evening in a redneck bar if you want to see arguing and a good fight. I prefer my presidents in control and intelligent.