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Hudson & Fournier: Catholic Countdown to Election 2012, Day 20.The Slugfest in Hempstead Failed to Deliver

By Deal W Hudson and Keith A Fournier
October 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The substantial differences between these two men, best revealed in their governing philosophies and drastically different world views, seemed almost lost in the atmosphere created by this mode of debate and the manner of this moderator. The event devolved into the equivalent of a mixed martial arts competition with the two contenders using words rather than striking and grappling techniques.

HEMPSTEAD, NY (Catholic Online) - Hempstead was hot last night as the two Presidential contenders engaged in verbal fisticuffs from the moment the bell rang. The second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney was a verbal slugfest.

Those who predicted that the Town Hall format would not lend itself to such an aggressive and bombastic brawl were wrong. The real question is whether this second debate actually helped many in the purported target audience, the undecided voters, make up their mind in what is clearly one of the most important presidential contests in American history.

The moderator, Candy Crowley of CNN's "State of the Union" did not help much in the entire experience. Rather than promoting several exchanges between the contenders which could have led to a robust and helpful delineation of their disagreements over the topics brought up by questions from the audience, she seemed more bent on securing her own place as a phantom third party contender seeking to bolster her own importance in the encounter.

In our column on Tuesday, we raised some issues we hoped would emerge in this long anticipated event. The clear contrast between the candidates on vital matters such as the fundamental human rights to life and religious liberty, the best way to deliver health care, the need for school choice and real education reform, how to best fulfill our obligations in solidarity - among Americans in our common National purpose as well as with the needy - and the urgent need to protect and preserve marriage and family, were not really even addressed. We were disappointed.

Instead, the night seemed to devolve into what, at times, appeared to be a spectacle from a pay per view sporting event with the two opponents seeking to best one another through interruption and various forms of aggressive maneuvers played out on a stage which resembled a fighting cage.

Adding to it all was the manner of the moderator. Instead of letting the verbal combatants actually paint a picture for America of their respective differences over major issues within the context of the numerous exchanges, she annoyingly inserted and asserted herself throughout the night.

So, what was really accomplished in that long anticipated second presidential debate of the 2012 campaign? Not very much of substance.

The Obama supporters who wanted their candidate to show his aggressiveness and thereby overcome any lingering concern over his capacity to fight following his lackluster performance in the first debate were certainly satisfied. The problem is still the content of his actual positions on the vital areas which Americans are so deeply concerned about. 

The Romney supporters who had hoped to see their candidate demonstrate he could go toe to toe with the President, when the President actually showed up with gloves on, witnessed the tenacity needed in a man who has volunteered to walk into the leadership of a Nation imploding.

However, the American people, who tuned in once again in record numbers, did not receive what they deserved in this exercise in verbal fisticuffs which ended in a draw.

Oh, the contrasts were drawn; on the candidate's prescriptions for what ails the obviously sick American economy, their perspectives on this Administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, their prescription for solving our growing energy crisis and their divergent economic plans which they propose to stop our spiraling unemployment rate.

However, the substantial differences between these two men, best revealed in their governing philosophies and drastically different world views, seemed almost lost in the atmosphere created by this mode of debate and the manner of this moderator. The event devolved into the equivalent of a mixed martial arts competition with the two contenders using words rather than striking and grappling techniques.

The audience at Hofstra University was chosen to specifically represent the so-called "undecided" voters. The narrative (to use the newest buzzword loved by the pundit class) on this election contest is that it will be won or lost based upon these folks. Both candidates, in this apparently razor thin contest, are supposed to be most concerned about seeking this elusive constituency's support in order to win on November 6, 2012. The entire claim itself is questionable.

However, on this Wednesday morning, with 20 days left before the people of the United States make a decision with monumental implications - not only for our national future but for our standing in the international community - we are left disappointed. We all had hoped for so much more. Tuesdays' debate was a missed opportunity, all around.

The third presidential debate will take place on October 22, 2012 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. The format is supposed to be just like the first debate and the focus is to be on foreign policy. However, coming out of this verbal slugfest in Hempstead, there is little likelihood that the debate will resemble the first one.

There is even less likelihood that the final debate will only cover foreign policy. With the ever-changing narrative on the terror attack in Libya being advanced from the White House and the drip, drip, drip of facts countering it, the debate on the Libya debacle will be electric. However, this debate will also be the last time that these two contenders get a chance to counter one another in the public eye before the American people speak at the ballot box. they will not stay on foreign policy.

The format, like the first debate, will not allow the posturing, circling and closing the gap moves demonstrated in the verbal mixed martial arts event which occurred on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 in Hempstead, New York. After witnessing the debate last night, we are relieved. So much for the pundits who said a Town Hall Format would not be conducive to aggressive behavior.

The problem with the second debate was that when the dust up was over, there is little to talk about in the area which we contend matters most - the two vastly different governing visions of these two candidates.

Our sincere hope is that the moderator of the third debate, Bob Schieffer, a veteran newsman and the host of Face the Nation on CBS, will get out of the way and let these two candidates debate. The American people have a right to hear where they each stand as they prepare to pick the path of their future and the future of their children.

For those looking for heat with little light, they got the price of admission in Tuesday's second Presidential debate. However, for those hoping for much more, those concerned about the candidates governing philosophy and wordview, the slugfest in Hempstead failed to deliver.

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