More beauty con­test than pres­i­den­tial de­bate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Cal Thomas

When used as a noun, the word de­bate means, “A dis­cus­sion in­volv­ing op­pos­ing points of view.” Us­ing such a def­i­ni­tion, the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are en­gag­ing in some­thing other than de­bate.

The Democrats agree that Pres­i­dent Bush is a lousy pres­i­dent, the war is lost, higher taxes are good and whoever is talk­ing would make the bet­ter pres­i­dent. The Repub­li­cans, who rarely men­tion the pres­i­dent, agree Hil­lary Clin­ton would be a bad pres­i­dent and each could fight ter­ror­ists bet­ter than any Demo­crat, ex­cept for Ron Paul, who doesn’t want to fight any­one.

Th­ese things re­sem­ble the game show “Jeop­ardy”: “I’ll have poll­tested an­swers for $200, Alex.” If all the can­di­dates were bet­ter look­ing, younger and fe­male, we could call them beauty con­tests. Miss Con­ge­nial­ity might say: “My one goal in life is world peace.”

Th­ese non­de­bates re­sem­ble a cat­tle auc­tion, ex­cept the cat­tle want to buy us, or at least our votes. They seem say, “How much can I sell you on the idea that I will be the best of the stock you see parad­ing be­fore you? How much do you be­lieve the bull I’m telling Wolf, Tim, Chris Matthews, Brian, Camp­bell, John, Wen­dell, Carl, Chris Wal­lace and Brit?”

Why can’t more vot­ers ask ques­tions? Why must we hear th­ese can­di­dates who want the power to tax our in­come and send our daugh­ters and sons off to war (or not) fil­tered through jour­nal­ists, who have their own agen­das?

Maybe it’s a poker game: “I raise my op­po­nents’ prom­ise with two prom­ises of my own.” Then my op­po­nent thinks I’m bluff­ing, calls my bet and raises me with two more prom­ises.

In none of th­ese game shows/auc­tions/poker games have I heard a Repub­li­can or Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date talk about my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in this uniquely priv­i­leged land. Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, who was taken from us 44 years ago, fa­mously said, “Ask not what your coun­try can do for you; ask what you can do for your coun­try.” In this self-cen­tered gen­er­a­tion that pre­cept might be mod­i­fied to “ask what you can do for your­self and stop ask­ing politi­cians and gov­ern­ment to do it for you.”

Where are the or­a­tors who will lead us away from our fix­a­tion on plea­sure and pros­per­ity and back to an ethic well un­der­stood by pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions; an ethic of re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity? Amer­ica, al­ways a dream in search of the ideal, has been trans­formed from a “can-do on my own” to a “can’t do with­out gov­ern­ment” cul­ture of vic­tims; a gi­ant gov­ern­ment ATM that dis­penses re­dis­tributed good­ies to all-com­ers.

Amer­ica is a coun­try that of­fers op­por­tu­nity, not guar­an­teed out­comes, be­cause not ev­ery­one has the same abil­i­ties, intelligence, drive or in­ter­ests. Life isn’t about ac­quir­ing larger homes, pos­sess­ing more things and ever-ex­pand­ing gov­ern­ment. It is (or once was) about build­ing char­ac­ter and be­ing con­tent with what you have.

The poor­est Amer­i­can is richer in tem­po­ral things, po­lit­i­cal free­dom and op­por­tu­nity than the poor of most other na­tions. Most of our needs are met. But in our con­sumer cul­ture, driven by so­phis­ti­cated mar­ket­ing tech­niques, our wants can never be suf­fi­ciently sat­is­fied to bring con­tent­ment. Why don’t any of the can­di­dates talk this way?

Who among the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates would dare say: “I can’t force you to get mar­ried, stay mar­ried and be more than a bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther or mother; I lack the power to make you stay in school, or work hard in or­der to suc­ceed; I can’t re­quire you to obey the law and a higher moral ethic that will not only ben­e­fit you, but pro­mote the gen­eral wel­fare. Stop whin­ing and go out and make a life for your­self.”

The de­bate for­mat should be changed. Put two at a time in a room, with a mod­er­a­tor who in­tro- duces them and leaves. Let them talk to each other and to us for an hour. They can take calls if they like. The tele­vised con­ver­sa­tion would have more cred­i­bil­ity than the sound bytes cross-dress­ing as real de­bate.

Is this any way to con­sider who should be pres­i­dent? If you say yes, then you might be auc­tion­ing our fu­ture, or play­ing a high-stakes poker game with a bad hand that could put the na­tion in dou­ble jeop­ardy.

Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.