I learned the hard way what a debate was in my first year of college. A friend persuaded me to be her debate partner in my first year of college even though I had no training, had never attended a debate and was so foolish as to agree to do her a favor.
We rushed to the debate and arrived late and the other side had been given the chance to choose which side of the argument they would have. My heart sank when I heard the topic. I happened to have some fairly strong opinions in support of the side of the position I was supposed to argue against. The other team went first. When it was time for our side to present our case I expected my friend to speak but she asked me to go first. I felt like Jackie Gleason on the Honeymooners caught in one of his ridiculous schemes that backfired trying to 'splain his way out from under his wife's attacks.
I heard myself saying something like - well, I'm in a difficult position, I feel fairly strongly about this and in real life I strongly support everything the other side has said. They used the arguments I would have chosen, had we been given the other side of the argument. The other team started to snicker and I think I may have embarrassed myself further by making some lame points for our side of the argument but acknowledging each time that I really didn't believe these things.
(this is how I stumble through life)
So, I have always felt in a way that a debating is confusing. How does one do one's best on behalf of something one does not believe?
How does one suspend one's own beliefs to make the case for the other side when one feels in ones' gut that it is wrong?
Well, better people than I can explain that to me. But as far as this past Wednesday, Oct 3rd's, Presidential Debate, this "dilemma" was not supposed to enter into things.
President Obama was supposed to argue on behalf of the principles of the Democratic Party and his own vision for where our country should be headed and how he plans to achieve those goals in a second term. And Governor Romney was supposed to defend the Republican Party's platform and his own vision of how to achieve those goals.
Wikipedia defines a debate thus:
Debate is contention in argument; dispute, controversy; discussion; esp. the discussion of questions of public interest in Parliament or in any assembly.http://en.wikipedia.org/...
Debate is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than deductive reasoning, which only examines whether a conclusion is a consequence of premisses, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case, or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion. Though logical consistency, factual accuracy and some degree of emotional appeal to the audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting a superior "context" and/or framework of the issue, which is far more subtle and strategic. The outcome of a debate depends upon consensus or some formal way of reaching a resolution, rather than the objective facts as such. In a formal debating contest, there are rules for participants to discuss and decide on differences, within a framework defining how they will interact.
I remember the incredulous and bemused look on the President's face when Mitt Romney, like a bull in a china shop, ignored the principles of debating and rudely seized control, bullying the moderator and drowning out the proceedings so he would have the last word in each round, hijacking talking points from the Democratic side that neither he nor his party endorse, smirking disrespectfully at his opponent and generally being completely disingenuous in representing new positions that he had not taken previously during the campaign. He seemed amused that this was finally his chance to have his etch-a-sketch moment to reshuffle his positions in order to sound like his positions represented the 100% in an effort to confuse the country on where he stands, rattle his opponent and threaten the moderator with removing him/his creation of the News Hour on PBS from relevance by cutting off tax funds from public broadcasting.
I think he surprised his opponent but did not confuse him.
And I think the voters will worry whether, regardless what Mitt Romney said during the debate, regardless whether it was gibberish or made sense to them, the voters will worry whether this former Bain Capital CEO will be a capricious, arrogant, bull in a china shop president rather than a public servant if he were allowed to win in November.
It seems that it didn't take long for his extemporaneous (I suspect, - because he just can't help shooting himself in the foot)) comments to get rid of Big Bird seem to have become symbolic of his tone deafness and his unsuitability to serve a democratic country of 300 million + diverse people.