This "Presidential debate" made me uncomfortable, and I need to think about why. President Obama looked into the camera a number of times, and as I watched, I wished that Romney would do the same. But Romney often addressed Obama directly, and looked at him, whereas Obama addressed Romney far less often. Also, for being old enough to be Obama's father, I thought that Romney looked younger and fresher, and Obama looked a little shrunken, tired. I am not sure why, but office has its burdens.
I have seen that on a "vote meter," Romney's impassioned speech to sit down with both Democrats and Republicans, discussion, and make decisions received a strongly favorable response. Indeed, this speech had the strongest response in the "focus group" in suburban Denver. Supposedly, suburban Colorado is a remarkably accurate predictor of Presidential elections in the U.S.
But I wonder why the whole "debate" make me feel a little restless, uncomfortable? In good part, it seemed that each man spoke past the other, that they were not seeking common ground, but to make themselves look good, and the other bad. That is politics, but the lack of openness to reasoning together makes me, at least, feel uncomfortable. A good leader helps each person to feel that s/he is contributing something to the common good. Why could not either of these two men have said to the other, "You have a good point there, and I need to take it further into account."
When so much power is at stake, truth is not the foremost goal. Each side seeks victory in the polls, not to see "truth emerge in the marketplace of ideas." I understand that, and expect it in our "democratic political system," but I much prefer genuine intellectual engagement to political posturing. For my part, I pity men and women who get caught up in politics. They are not evil, not fools, but they must compromise so much of nobility of character. Political leaders often sacrifice goodness to the quest for power.
One thing for sure: Romney did a much better job last evening than Senator McCain did in 2008. Obama was, I think, weaker than he was in 2008, because he seemed less present, less engaged. No doubt the office of President weighs very heavily on a person. Consider how Obama has visibly aged; the same happened to the younger Bush, and to Bill Clinton, during their tenures in office.
As I watched this "debate," I spontaneously thought that three times, Romney "hit the ball out of park," and that Obama did the same once. But then, my preference for Romney may bias me to judge fairly of their qualities as debaters. It would be interesting to hear a truly objective analyst of the political scene to see what he or she would say.
The one line by Obama that most fascinated me was "I believe in America's [pause] future." I was expecting, "people." How can one believe in what does not exist? The future is indeed empty of content. We must choose and act to make our present become future. Why did he not say, I believe that the American people can realize a good future," or some such formulation? I wonder if Obama also could say, "I believe in America's past, and its present." Or, "I believe in America." The use of "future" deserves careful reflection because, as I said, the future has no substantial reality, it is merely possible. So how can it be the object of "believe?" Maybe he meant, "I believe that America has a good future." That could be. But frankly, our "future" is fully open, fully dependent on our choices and actions. Nothing in "the future" is guaranteed, fixed. Nothing is "pre-determined," except that "everything that comes into being must perish," including our country. And this is a truth that Americans do not like to face, as I have discovered repeatedly while teaching courses in politics to American college students.
These thoughts will be continued after I have more time to think.