I took up fencing as my sport in college. Over time I learned to be quick, meaning my movements were subtle enough to fool my opponent. While I performed well with fencers who were at or above my skill level, I fared miserably among those of few skills, those who imaged a sword was to be looped through the air like a scythe. Dealing with amateurs who didn’t care a fig about the rules of engagement was, to say the least, frustrating.
Tonight, Hillary Clinton debates Donald Trump to convince the public she is qualified for the high office she seeks—something that doesn’t need debating. Nonetheless, rumor has it she’s been boning up for the event with “forensic style” analysis. (“The debates: A potential game changer,” The Week, September 16, 2016 pg. 16.) Donald trump, it is said, is depending upon attack lines, using the freewheeling manner that served him well in the Republican primaries. “You can prep too much for those things,” he is reported to have said. (Ibid pg. 16.)
I’d eliminate these presidential debates, if I had my druthers. To me, they are little more than pugilistic events. The decision about a leader’s qualifications shouldn’t rest on the sound bites and snappy repartee that journalists love to count. If a candidate stumbles over a word or frowns during an exchange… these are cosmetics qualities having nothing to do with governance. Focusing upon trivia makes the debates a game of “Who won?” — as if the manner of delivery were more important than what the candidate had to say.
Nixon learned the lesson of cosmetics and dealing with the unpredictable in the 1960s when he debated John F. Kennedy for the presidency. What chance did the Nixon have, with his jowls and hooded eyes, against a debonair Irishman with a dazzling smile and a wit? None, as history shows.
When it comes to choosing a president, I prefer to leave machismo to the sports arena. In a president, I want a thinker. A little experience wouldn’t hurt, either.