The primary season is still months away and we are already watching the third Presidential debate. Yesterday eight presidential candidates from the Democratic party indulged in their linguistic battles on CNN. I will neither dwell too much on the technical incompetency on part of CNN (malfunctioning microphones, jerky camera work, etc.) in organizing the debate nor will ask why the heck they couldn’t find anyone better than Wolf ‘Situation Room’ Blitzer.
The questions were quite lacking in their depth and importance. Comparatively, MSNBC and Fox News asked better questions. One of the questions irked me no end. Mike Gravel, a long-shot candidate was asked, how would he make use of Bill Clinton if he was elected President. Later on, Wolf Blitzer passed on the question to other candidates including Hillary. Almost all candidates had a similar answer – some kind of roving worldwide ambassador. If that happens, I say put a red light on top of him and he’ll clear traffic on Indian roads in no time.
But seriously, I didn’t understand why waste time on such a trite question. Was it intended to underline Hillary’s gender? I say this because Junior Bush is never asked if he makes use of his much illustrious father and former President. Probably he should have considering how much global good will he has squandered away in the past few years. However, Hillary Clinton probably gave the best answer by saying that we should make use of all our past presidents because not availing of their immense experience and relationships they might have nutured during their years in the White House would be a colossal waste.
As Ash remarked, a better question would be as how each candidate envisions the role of their spouse i.e. the first lady or first gentleman. Would he or she merely be a hostess and be in charge of redecorating the White House bedrooms or would they play a significant role in policy making or advisement? When Hillary Clinton was the first lady, she had attempted reforming the health care system in the country whereas Laura Bush hasn’t done anything significant.
Another question was whether English should be the country’s official language. Only one candidate, Mike Gravel raised his hand and Barack Obama reprimanded the choice of the question by calling it divisive. As other candidates elaborated, that English is already the national language and by making it an official one would be a great disservice to the countless immigrants, legal or otherwise who don’t speak the language well yet. All candidates emphasized learning of the language though but by making it official, we would be effectively excluding all others from any government-sponsored program or bureaucratic functioning.
Wolf Blitzer persisted by saying that a majority of citizens favor making it official but the candidates didn’t tell him that do all those who favor such a decision really understand the ramifications of that decision. When the media indulges in such populist antics without giving additional information or providing a platform for reasoned debate, complex policy matters are often explained away by rhetoric.
I hope the second CNN debate for the Republican candidates is better organized and asks better questions but for me, this debate was a total time-waste.