Here’s what is wrong with the debates

By Marshall Frank

As of this writing, five presidential debates — three Republican and two Democratic — have been held, ostensibly offering the American people a chance at learning the positions of each candidate and to evaluate their presidential gravitas. This is one voter who is extremely disappointed. Here are 10 reasons why:

1) Too many candidates with too little time to respond to so many important issues. This frustrates viewers as well as the participants. The citizenry needs more than sound bites for such vital topics as the Iraq war and immigration. Ten to eight candidates dilute the available opportunity for quality responses Debates should be scheduled for no more than five candidates at a time, then double the number of debates.

2) Frontrunners get the spotlight — which they already have anyway — making the presidential race a media event. This is a time when voters have an opportunity to weigh the positions of lesser known candidates, yet moderators target the likes of McCain, Giuliani, Clinton and Obama for the lion’s share of questions. Candidates like Ron Paul and Mike Gravel stand as potted plants, hoping for a morsel or two to come their way, and we — the voters — are deprived of learning more about them.

3) Audience questions, while worthwhile, should be screened for substance. Precious little time is available, yet candidates are forced to answer innocuous questions such as “What does it mean to be an American?” This provides nothing more than opportunities for grandstanding and means nothing otherwise.

4) Way too much emphasis on religion. The constant questions about individual faith forces candidates to assert their politically correct beliefs in God, and how much religion plays a role in their personal and professional lives. Any candidate who professes otherwise would be committing political suicide, and they all know that. Their responses are predictable, so what is there to evaluate?

5) Over-emphasis on abortion. Whether or not a presidential candidate is pro-life or pro-choice will have no bearing on the future of a free America, or on our national security, or our economy, or any other issue that will impact the lives of our children and grandchildren. It’s simply a hot-button issue that appeals to special interest groups on both sides.

6) While questions abound about international terrorism, very little is focused on the rising influence of radical Islam within the borders of the United States. Recent polls suggest that one-fourth of young male Muslims in America support the indiscriminate killings of civilians by suicide bombers. Such youngsters will likely form a substantial army of future terrorists on the domestic front. Politicians all know how much radical Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia is pouring into our universities, prisons and mosques, yet no one addresses this dark and looming issue. This is a problem which future generations in America will be facing but it’s politically incorrect for both the media and our politicians to address.

7) While half the debates are centered on Iraq and immigration, very little is centered on the potential crises in North Korea, Taiwan, Darfur, Israel, Chechnya, or worse — the declining relations between the U.S. and the western hemisphere, namely, Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia.

How would each candidate feel about lifting the Cuban embargo, and establish trade with the communist nation, much the same as we trade with China?

8) Crime remains safely under the rug. No attention is paid to it. Yet, the United States houses more than 2 million inmates in its prisons while multi-millions more are filtered through the criminal justice system one way or another. At least $100 billion a year is expended in a losing effort toward fighting the illicit drug problem, not to mention another $100 billion in ancillary medical and welfare costs. Millions of lives are wasted in prisons, morgues and hospital wards combating a problem which is not much different than the prohibition issue of the 1920s, yet no one dares to raise the issue. Out of sight, out of mind.

9) Stem cell research. I’ve yet to hear one question asked of a candidate about their position on federal funding for the cure of horrible diseases and saving lives. Yet, in six years this is the only bill which the current president has vetoed, all in the interest of political pay-back to his fundamentalist base. It’s another hot button issue which is politically incorrect, no matter which side of the fence they sit. We — the voters — remain in the dark, while sufferers remain suffering.

10) Homeland Security. Where are the questions? Almost six years after 9/11, containers in our ports remain un-inspected. The borders remain insecure. Al Qaeda is riding piggy-back on illegal immigrants entering through our southern border. Radical Islamic forces are making serious inroads inside the nation’s infrastructure. Why are there no air marshals on every domestic flight? Why are security personnel prohibited from profiling young mid-east passengers on airline flights, while little grannys from Oklahoma get body searched?

Here’s what it means to be an American: It means caring about our kids, our grandkids, and their kids, and how we can set the stage for a more secure and better life for them, just like our ancestors did for us. And to do that, we must demand answers from our potential leaders that are of substance and consequence. Too bad that’s not happening.

(Marshall Frank is a retired Miami-Dade homicide detective and a novelist. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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