Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What All The Campaigns Are About

While some of the media is still buzzing about a gaffe made by Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker over the weekend, we're actually kind of glad Mayor Booker stepped in the deep end of politics like an amateur.

For one thing, as Ezra Klein noted, Booker's greater point - that America should be having a broad debate about the real issues of leadership, instead of having to watch distracting SuperPAC commercials about non-issues - is one we, and most people who actually care about this country, agree with.

Debates on real issues, between quality candidates that actually display the qualities that prove whether a candidate is truly ready for office, are exactly what we should be having.

In fact, at a press conference yesterday, President Obama echoed that exact sentiment when a reporter asked him about the TV and web ads attacking Mitt Romney's past tenure with vulture capital firm Bain Capital. The reporter attempted to depict the ads discussing Mitt's past as a job destroyer as a distraction - as one of those kinds of distractions like the proposed SuperPAC smear from last week.

The President responded directly, “This is not a distraction. This is what this campaign is going to be about.”

The President continued, "If the main basis for [Romney] suggesting he can do a better job [as President] is his track record as the head of a private equity firm, then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining."

“When you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot," said The President. “My job [The job of President] is to take into account everybody, not just some."

That kind of head-on debate of the details that make a good officeholder is exactly what honest voters from every political background desire. We should all demand that kind of debate, and we should definitely teach that kind of critical discussion to the next generation of voters.

In Nebraska, Democratic Senate candidate Bob Kerrey seems to have that will and energy to engage in both honest debate and teaching the next generation how such debates should work.

The Cornhusker Boys and Girls State summertime citizenship conferences for teenagers invited Mr. Kerrey and GOP Senate nominee Deb Fischer to have a debate at their annual convention in Nebraska's capitol city June 5, two weeks from today. Kerrey jumped at the chance, remarking that scheduling the first debate of the general election before an audience of high school aged kids, "sends just the right message" for the campaign.

However, after months of claiming she wanted "as many debates as possible," the inexperienced challenger Fischer, was muzzled by her campaign manager - who attempted to distract the media with an ad hominem swipe at Mr. Kerrey.

The problem is, if Fischer is really the independent-minded Republican she's already claiming she is, strong leadership - the kind that will be needed in the Senate - should come directly from her, at the top of her campaign. It should be part of the platform of who she is.

Now, we're not going to fall to the level of Mr. Romney, or Ms. Fischer's press flack, and make outright negative and spurious claims about why Ms. Fischer chose not to debate. The fact is, Fischer's decision spoke louder than anything she could have said. It says she's not ready yet - and doesn't know when she will be.

As the President noted Monday, what his campaign - what all the campaigns this year - should be about, are real issues that display the qualities that prove whether a candidate is truly ready for office. In the case of President Obama's challenger, Mr. Romney, if Romney is going to ignore his record as Governor of Massachusetts, and focus on his record at vulture capital firm Bain Capital, then Romney's record at Bain is fair game.

If someone is merely hanging on, pointing whatever direction the SuperPACs tell them to point, they're a long way from being ready to rumble - let alone take office. Governing properly isn't for the faint of heart. If a candidate doesn't know that already, once they are in the race is not the time to be learning that lesson.

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