Tuesday, October 11, 2016

If You Were A Tree, What Kind Of Tree Would You Be?

Recognizing an article in The Huffington Post, HuffPost Black Voices tweeted "nominees debate less than 15 miles from Ferguson, don't discuss police reform."  Linking to that tweet, Joy-Ann Reid characterized it "among the most shameful things about last night."

It was, but it wasn't surprising.  There is a major reason criminal justice/police reform wasn't discussed at the debate in St. Louis.

The first clue was when a Patrice Brock was allowed to ask "do you feel you're modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today's youth?" When a politician (or a celebrity)- as did Hillary Clinton- commends you for asking "a very good question," it's because the pitch you've served up is a big, fat one over the heart of the plate.

The second hint came when a Muslim asked "how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?"  He didn't say who would be labeling him a "threat" nor what "consequences" he was referring to.

Then there was the Virginian who asked "is it OK for politicians to be two-faced? Is it acceptable for a politician to have a private stance on issues?"  While to Donald Trump truth is a complete stranger, all politicians skirt the truth while earnestly confessing they tell it like it is.

They weren't done. "Diane from Pennsylvania" asked "if you were president, what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? Isn’t it a lot like the Holocaust when the U.S. waited too long before we helped?"

There was no indication moderators Anderson Cooper and Diane Raddatz were troubled by a comparison of using weapons of modern warfare to kill people indiscriminately to hold on to power with a systematic regime of genocide. It's no wonder forced-birth advocates can refer to abortion as "genocide" with only pro-choice advocates blinking an eye.

Fittingly, the debate ended with "regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?" Of this, Charlie Pierce noted "not much more needs to be said beyond the fact that it should have come with a juice box for everyone in the audience."

Ordinary citizens specialize in the broad question which sounds quite interesting. It also has no reference to anything a candidate has specifically said or done and is like a large, juice steak served up to a political carnivore.

Cooper and Raddatz, he a competent interviewer and she much more, should be embarrassed for having been subjected to this format.  So ask not why the duty to probe the views of the candidates on police/criminal justice/police reform was shirked. Ask why a whole range of issues such as abortion, civil liberties, education, entitlement/earned benefits, financial reform, guns, health and safety regulations was largely ignored.  The culprit evidently is the Commisiion on Presidential Debates because it determined the format.

The modern urge to involve citizens as active participants in political debates is a sort of journalistic slumming which, one can only hope, makes the professionals involved feel good. Cooper and Raddatz allowed a couple of good questions to get through and there was actual depth to the clash between Trump and Clinton when the professionals asked the questions However, if the Commission believes the format of the second debate was useful,  it apparently has little interest in illuminating the great issues facing a great nation

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