Presidential debates are useless

Watching the Republican Presidential Debate last week, I was reminded of an opinion piece by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw in The New York Times:

“In 1992 someone asked me how I would change the presidential debate format. I proposed handing each of the candidates a double martini in the firm belief that would get them beyond their canned answers.”

Why exactly do we keep up this charade of presidential candidate debating, especially when the Republican nominee won’t be known until April in all likelihood? The first debate, which featured five potential nominees, was held May 5th, 551 days before Election Day.

Throughout most debates, candidates attack each other, attack the other side, and overall, say very little of substance. They also lie and exaggerate to get ahead, and then expect the American people to believe that they’d be the best possible leader of the United States.

Factcheck.org found five major stretches of the truth in the Republican debate held on Sept. 7. More were found for the previous debate, held Aug. 11. Once the candidates are set for the final election, we can expect the same from whoever the Republican candidate is, as well as President Obama.

Brokaw’s suggestion of a double martini is not a bad one by any means. The candidates may not know the exact wording of a question, but they know the outline of what’s coming, making it easy for them to think of something to say before the lights and cameras turn on.

But there’s a better suggestion than alcohol: get rid of the debates altogether. Make people do their own research. Look at their voting records as members of Congress, the bills they’ve signed into law as governors, their supporters, their detractors, and what they’ve said in interviews.

Debates are nothing more than an excuse for adults to act like children on national television. During one Republican debate this year, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania rolled his eyes at an answer by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. If we allow our elected officials to act like Valley Girls, what does that say about how seriously we take our politics?

Political debates used to be far more civilized: look at the famous 1858 series of debates between Illinois’ own Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Their speeches touch on the respect they had for one another, even if they held very different viewpoints, especially on the issue of slavery. The respect between candidates, however, seems to have disappeared since then.

We don’t need presidential debates, and we especially don’t need numerous debates among possible presidential candidates. They add nothing to our country, and show how much thought many people put into their votes. I’ll just listen to what this guy says and take his word for it.

Instead, investigate each candidate and choose whether they share your values. Don’t just listen to their words, but see what they actually believe by what they’ve done in office. We will have a better government if our citizens look into the facts and make their own choices when it comes to any election, whether it is national, state, or local.