December 5, 2023

A Disappointing Non-Debate

It was a verbal slugfest and insult festival. It looked like Donald Trump was debating himself.

If you watched the so-called “debate” between Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis and California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom (a presidential candidate in waiting), hoping to witness something that elevated the political rhetoric from the corrosive to the tolerable, even the admirable, you were probably disappointed. I was.

Instead of showing the audience something different from what we have become accustomed to, it was a verbal slugfest and insult festival. It looked like Donald Trump was debating himself.

Each man called the other man a liar. Each repeatedly interrupted the other. Moderator Sean Hannity kept asking them not to interrupt and for a short time they behaved, but then couldn’t help themselves and reverted to what used to be called rudeness. Had I behaved that way as a child, I would have been sent to my room after a proper spanking and possibly denied dinner. Theirs was childish behavior.

When Hannity displayed statistics from the CDC and FBI on Covid and crime, Newsom would not acknowledge their validity. Neither would DeSantis acknowledge anything Newsom said might be true. According to Nielsen Media Research, 4.7 million watched, including 742,000 in the 25-54 age range, the demographic group preferred by advertisers. Ads are fundamentally what TV is about, aren’t they?

How the audience benefited is anyone’s guess. I suspect not very much. How Newsom and DeSantis benefited we might learn shortly from polls. I learned nothing and tuned out after an hour, figuring the last 30 minutes would be more of the same.

The Washington Post fact-checker appeared to give the edge to DeSantis when it came to the accuracy of his claims, but just barely.

What would have helped both men — and benefited viewers — is Hannity asking each man if there is something he liked about the other (clothing, hair styles and other externals excluded). He might have also asked what they love about America. And he could have asked if there are any programs or services that could be eliminated to reduce debt. California’s debt is projected to be over $600 billion by 2027, according to What cuts would President DeSantis make to reduce the national debt, which is approaching $34 trillion? That would have been useful information.

Instead, the insults flew. Is this the new normal? Apparently so.

One other question that might have revealed some of each man’s inner thinking and inner being. Hannity might have asked, “Tell the audience if you have made mistakes as governors, what they were and whether you learned anything.”

Here’s another: “Calvin Coolidge became president 100 years ago. He said: ‘ It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.’ Do you think you are a great man? Do you think your opposite is a great man?” It would have been good to know if an ounce of humility exists in either man.

Follow-up: “Is there anything you admire about each other?”

Another question Hannity might have asked: “How would each of you make America stronger through more government in our lives, or less?”

The public needs to know the inner workings of a politician’s heart and soul beyond studied right-left talking points. This event failed to deliver. Instead of what had been billed as a “Thrilla from Alpharetta,” it was more of a snoozer.

©2023 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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