Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders full of women - a debate stage full of men.

Today I am reading Romney’s “binders full of women” quote everywhere. While the issue brought up is clearly more substantive than Big Bird, does it really surprise anyone? I read article after article leading up to last night’s debate bemoaning the president not bringing up women in the first debate, and prioritizing the importance for both candidates to play specifically to women voters in the second. Well it would seem that Romney fulfilled expectations putting his foot firmly in his mouth last night saying, “We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women.” I imagine Ryan might say that Romney was “obviously inarticulate” in making this point, if he himself was capable of recognizing the problem with it. Perhaps Mitt is simply trying to say that employers are going to be anxious to hire good workers and women are good workers, but the statement comes off sounding like it says that employers are going to be “so anxious to get good workers” that they will even hire women.

So Obama gets points for Lilly Ledbetter, defending Planned Parenthood, and he has two daughters he wants to make sure “have the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have.” He sounds like he cares. And maybe he is being sincere, but watching two women (who are running for the same office) being manhandled and arrested by a bunch of burly officers outside the debate gives me pause. The Obama campaign is not simply complicit here, it is the Democrats and Republicans acting in concert through the false flag of the Commission on Presidential Debates that have excluded these women’s voices from the debates. The “Nonpartisan” Candidate Selection Criteria For 2012 General Election Debate Participation, Adopted on October 20, 2011, sets forth three specific “nonpartisan” criteria for selecting candidates to participate in the 2012 general election presidential debates: (1) constitutional eligibility, (2) ballot access, and (3) electoral support. Though I personally believe both the second and third criteria need redress, the candidacy of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala actually meets criteria one and two. The third criteria, however, is a self-validating circle of nonsense:


The CPD's third criterion requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination. 

"Electoral support” is simply not the same thing as “indicators of electoral support," in the same way that “votes” are not “opinion polls.” Under these criteria, a candidate needs to have enough support to be selected to debate to get enough support to be selected to debate... nonsense. A debate is at its heart about finding out where the candidates stand on the issues that matter to us; and five selected national polling organizations, the CPD, and the two parties that run it should not be allowed to determine which voices we get to hear and which get to go to jail for showing and speaking up.

One other thing stands out to me about the debate and it’s critique: I’m seeing some very talented people that I respect taking Romney to task for his comment, “Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs.” But why not also take Obama to task for saying, “I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe.” I wrote a bit in an earlier post about mobilizing the American people to support legislation that they actually want, rather than simply adopting Republican talking points in some kind of hopeless crusade to out Republican the Republicans. When Obama declares “I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded,” and tempers this with his fair shot, fair share, play by the same rules refrain; is he offering us the necessary vision to move beyond this win/lose competitive paradigm, or is he simply strengthening it? With the concepts of independence and competition so central to our core identity as Americans, is it even possible to address “fairness” without it being viewed as an affront to those very same ideas? If you insist on fairness aren’t you just making excuses for your own lack of success? Perhaps you are just too lazy, or unwilling (to work harder), or maybe you’re just not smart (educated) enough. Are we truly “free” if we cannot freely choose not to participate in this game?

Mark Halperin at Time Magazine posted the leaked Memorandum of Understanding between the Obama and Romney campaigns Monday, a 21 page legal document delineating the rules governing 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates. I read it this morning. And then I made a cup of coffee to try to wake myself back up. It did of course contain specifics regarding who gets to debate, the topics that will be “debated,” and the format of the debate (as I wrote in an earlier post); of the many restrictions here are a few that set off some bells for me:

1. (d) The parties agree that they will not (1) issue any challenges for additional debates, (2) appear at any other debate or adversarial forums except as agreed to by the parties, or (3) accept any television or radio air time offers that involve a debate format or otherwise involve the simultaneous appearance of more than one candidate.

So not only does the agreement restrict who can debate, but it also restricts the two candidates to only debating one another, and only in these CPD sanctioned debates.

3. Participants
If one or more candidates from the campaigns other than the two (2) signatories are invited to participate pursuant to those Selection Criteria, those candidates shall be included in the debates, if those candidates accept the terms of this agreement.

This effectively says IF you meet the criteria to be invited to debate that you still have to agree to the terms of the agreement (that your party had no hand in writing) IF you want to be included in the debate.

5. (e) The candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates.

Ah well - rules are made to be broken.

7. Additional Rules Applicable to the October 16 Debate...

Too much here to re-type, but here is my summary: Audience members submit their questions to the moderator prior to the start of the debate. Moderator approves all questions to be posed and “eliminates” any questions she (and she alone) deems “inappropriate.” If any audience member poses a question or makes a statement that is in any material way different than the question that they submitted for review, they get cut off by the moderator and the Commission can cut off their microphone. All audience members describe themselves as likely voters. The audience is selected by Gallup Organization, but the campaigns have the final say on the “methodology” used for selection.

9. (a) (viii) All members of the debate audience will be instructed by the moderator before the debate goes on the air and by the moderator after the debate goes on the air not to applaud, speak, or otherwise participate in the debate by any means other than silent observation, except as provided by the agreed upon rules of the October 16 town hall debate. The moderator shall also state that, should an audience member fail to comply with this requirement, he or she will be will be subject to removal from the audience and from the facility. 

10. (a) ... Each campaign shall be entitled to receive directly from the Commission one-third of the available tickets (excluding those allocated to the participating audience in the October 16 debate), with the remaining one-third going to the Comission.

Basically, what we have here is some sort of facsimile of democracy in action, with all of the inconvenient randomness, diversity, and unscripted participation stripped out. And you are more than likely not invited.

An additional note: beyond the specifics relating to distribution of tickets, section 10. (c) of the memorandum specifies seating arrangements, in order to “insure that supporters of each candidate do not sit in a block and are interspersed with supporters for the other candidate and interspersed with tickets distributed by the Commission.” Notable here is that there is no specific allotment for supporters of a different candidate entirely, or neither candidate, or those who have simply not decided (it is a debate after all). Perhaps folks in these categories can sit anywhere they like? If not, they could always sit outside in the street, or better yet, in a jail cell...


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