To the editor:
I was discomforted during the recent Republican presidential debate. Here are basically good and able people anxious to make a showing that will move them closer to becoming president. That anxiety, however, apparently dulled their ability to think clearly, answer basic questions, or appear presidential.
Their plight was not made easier by CNBC’s ill-conceived event format and their contentious questions. No wonder the candidates jostled for “air time,” often by rudely talking over one another.
While I understand that unruly demeanor, those presidential hopefuls don’t merit sympathy. After all each wants to hold our nation’s leader. If the debate was to showcase leadership, no one seemed able to demonstrate it in the midst of the general mayhem.
Interestingly, the first question to the candidates was to identify his/her weaknesses. This is a valuable question. It reveals the soul of the candidate’s crucial self-understanding. That naked truth becomes more visible in answering subsequent questions.
Ted Cruz seemed clever when he complained about the nature of the questions. Some questions were ungracious or not on the debate’s announced topic. A key purpose of the debate, however, is to see how candidates handle discomforting, contentious, even threatening situations.
Persons aspiring to the Oval Office must be able to “keep their cool” more effectively than was seen there in Las Vegas. There wasn’t much that was “presidential” in the face of essentially mild challenges.
When Jeb Bush challenged Marco Rubio about his absence from Senate voting responsibilities, the poorest of the 100 senators, Rubio’s put-down of Bush won him applause. The problem, however, his cute response said nothing to defend that shameful voting record. His answer was a non-answer.
At one point, Ted Cruz claimed that the moderator didn’t want to hear Cruz’s response to the question. Actually, Cruz had squandered time allotted for his answer – in speaking to something else. The moderator had to move on. The Cruz charge, that he was not allowed to answer the question, was petulant and dishonest.
Candidates complained the debate didn’t focus on the intended matters of economy. In reality, when given opportunity to detail one’s personal plan, each seemingly only offered pandering generalities – that couldn’t stand statistical scrutiny.
Americans do need an effective way to identify the qualities and intellectual capacity needed for our nation’s highest office. After the recent GOP debate, one wonders if that format helps.
On the other hand, we must elect a president who can handle difficult situations with dignity, strength and honesty. Maybe our imperfect debate format is the best crucible to unmask the weaknesses of those who want our vote.
William A. McCartney