Floored. That was the overwhelming feeling that prevailed in the Student Media Center as our busy but comparatively peaceful newsroom was turned on its head Wednesday afternoon at approximately 2 p.m. That was when we learned the news that made us sick to our stomachs: Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain has requested that the presidential debate to be held on our campus be suspended.
After nearly 12 hours of near-constant news coverage, we have come to firmly believe that such a move would be detrimental both to our nation and to our community.
As Dr. James Baughman has underscored, Sen. McCain is attempting to assert that the economic crisis should overshadow the debate. We cannot help but feel that his perspective in this matter is fundamentally flawed, however. Now more than ever we as Americans desperately need to hear the voices of our future leaders. This debate is not less important than the economic crisis; this debate is part of the solution to the economic crisis.
In order for it to be so, however, the Commission on Presidential Debates must change the topic of Fridays debate from foreign policy to the economic crisis. We feel that initially changing the topic from domestic issues to foreign policy in response to breaking news more than a month before this debate was both reckless and foolish, and the commission should remedy that error now. Sen. McCain has wielded his considerable influence to change the topic of this debate once already; he can most certainly do so again.
The worst course of action Sens. McCain and Obama could possibly take would be to retreat behind the closed doors of the Capitol Building and deliberate over what to do about our money with their wealthy Congressional friends. Rather, the candidates should use this debate as an opportunity to present their plans for the economy to the American people. Once they have done so, they can return to Capitol Hill to implement their plans.
We say all this before we turn to our own university community, which is reeling from this uncertainty. This debate is the culmination not only of months of planning, but also of decades of progress for our community. To have it snatched from our hands in the 11th hour would be devastating beyond words.
We realize that the national media and the majority of Americans care little about whether our university is given the opportunity to host this debate. We care. We realize that we represent only 15,000-odd voices of the more than 300 million who could become Sen. McCains political constituents. That does not mean, however, that our voices should not be heard, nor that our hard work, resources and hopes deserve to be sacrificed to the insatiable beast of political expediency.
Sen. McCain has claimed that he cares about the voices of every American, even ones from backwater Mississippi. The time has come for him to walk his talk straight to the Ford Center.