Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Real Debate, Fake Debate

As you may have guessed, we're barely covering the Republican National Convention this week and we don't really plan on covering much of the Democratic National Convention next week, either. In a world of twenty-four news cycles and a hyper-partisan electorate, the last thing most Americans need is a three or four day infomercial, with a fake internal debate, for a political brand they've already made their final decisions about.

Political polling over the next two weeks won't serve as an escape for political media folks either. The last polls taken before the conventions were released yesterday and held no serious surprises. Most polls for the next two weeks will be effectively worthless, as each major event temporarily convinces the most wishy-washy and emotionally needy people to cheer for their side.

That leaves those of us involved in politics and media who wish to remain ethical to focus on something worthy of being called "news."

For Nebraskans - both current residents and state-level expats - as well as other political junkies, the kind of news we're tackling today is something you might have missed in the run up to the RNC; the recent Kerrey-Fischer debate for U.S. Senate.

Unlike the RNC on Tuesday, where some participants were not allowed to debate and others were treated with serious disrespect, both the former U.S. Senator from Nebraska Bob Kerrey, and the current state Senator Deb Fischer, acted with a general sense of decorum at their debate.

The first debate of their U.S. Senate contest - still the only debate that Fischer has officially agreed to and finalized details for - had its share of jabs from both candidates, though only one of them gave many details.

Kerrey, consistent as he's always been, promoted his ability to find compromise, pledging to "put country first, always." Kerrey also promised the crowd he'd, "shake up Washington, D.C., and challenge Harry Reid as often as I annoy Mitch McConnell."

Fischer, for her part, attempted to sell herself as a staunch conservative. Unfortunately for her, she came off more than a bit hollow to those who know her record in the Nebraska Legislature. In a pleasant surprise, even though Fischer's false attempt to paint Kerrey as an outsider has been a hallmark of her campaign, she refused to discuss that issue at the debate.

Kerrey didn't. He went headlong at the false "carpetbagger" issue ginned up by GOP strategists, and knocked that issue into the dirt where it belongs.

Fischer consistently spouted answers that seemed as though they were written by producers from Fox, with lots of sloganeering, but no details. As you can see on the replay, Kerrey had plenty of details, both about his own plans and about the plans and history of his opponent.

From immigration to climate change, from debt and taxes, to Medicare and healthcare, Kerrey consistently showed a depth of knowledge and thoughtful answers that showed he'd weighed all the facts and chose his own approach - one that doesn't fall along strict Democratic Party lines. Fischer simply towed the Republican Party line, somewhat uncomfortably.

We'd love to see another debate between the two candidates to see if Fischer can relax and be a bit more honest and natural. Chances are, though, like most modern Republican politicians, she'll hide and cower, avoiding another chance to potentially make a mistake in a debate with the more experienced Kerrey.

It's a shame, really, since there's nothing of any real significance importance going on in politics right now, nationally or in Nebraska.

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