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Thursday, 15 August, 2019

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Forgettable candidates and irritating format US democrat presidential debates

Washington Watch

I

dR james j zogby

’VE just returned from detroit, Michigan, where i attended the second set of democratic Party presidential primary debates. For many reasons, the debates were a frustrating experience. in the first place, there were simply too many candidates– many of whom, frankly speaking, didn’t belong cluttering up the stage. And then there was the way these debates were run– more for TV ratings and entertainment, than for serious discussion and enlightenment. in 1984, i was in new Hampshire with reverend Jesse Jackson for one of that year’s democratic presidential primary debates. it was a thoughtful discussion with a professional moderator. At one point, though, i recall looking at the eight candidates on stage and thinking to myself, “Jesse is dominating this debate. He may not win, but he’ll always be remembered. A few years from now, how many of these other guys will we even be able to recall were in this race?” Sure enough, three years later, i made a practice of asking folks how many of the 1984 candidates they could name. After recalling Jackson, Senator gary Hart, and then Walter Mondale, the eventual nominee, most got stuck. The others, though quite accomplished (four were senators and one was a governor), had been largely forgotten. i simply couldn’t understand why most of them were running in 1984. They were nice enough, smart enough, and each of them had realized some degree of success– but they did not and could not stand out as memorable. While i suppose that they each saw themselves in a larger light, complete with fantasies of sitting in the oval office, they were largely gray, rather dull individuals, lacking bold ideas or compelling personalities that would distinguish them from a host of other politicians. Why they thought they could rise above the pack and become president was puzzling then and remains so today. i say this because i had much the same experience this week in detroit, Michigan. Twenty of the 25 declared candidates met the standards that had been established to participate in the debates. And, as in 1984, they were largely individuals of some distinction. There were seven Senators, seven others who had served or are currently Members of congress or governors, three mayors, a former vice-president, and a former cabinet secretary. And yet, as i watched them debate, the 1984 questions came back to me, “Why are they doing this?” and “Will anyone even remember that they ran

The exchanges that followed became testy three years from now?” As i watched the debates unfold, it became (i guess that was viewed as “good for ratings”) painfully clear that several simply lacked the and also produced some of the evening’s more stature to compete. Why, then, were they there? memorable lines. Warren shot back at the TV What did they hope to accomplish? And how guy “These are republican talking points!” and could they be so lacking in self-awareness that she asked one of her opponents why he was they would subject themselves to the embar- running as democrat if he couldn’t support “big ideas” that helped people. Sanders, for his part, rassment of being so outclassed on stage? Because there were so many who are run- after being badgered by an opponent who conning, each of the two debate nights featured 10 tinued to interrupt him challenging what was incandidates on stage. And each night’s debates cluded in the Medicare For All bill, shouted lasted an exhausting two and one-half hours. back that of course he knew what was in there Especially upsetting was how the debates were because, “i wrote the damn bill!” He also quesrun– more as a made for television spectacle, tioned why we could give billions of dollars in designed to boost ratings (and therefore adver- tax breaks to the richest Americans, without any tising revenues) than as a serious effort to help protest, yet balk at spending more to ensure that voters decide who would be best to lead the na- health care be guaranteed as a right, instead of as a privilege. tion for the next four years. if the intent had been to deflate Sanders and A few weeks back, we got an inkling of how the sponsoring network would be operat- Warren, it didn’t work. They fended off chaling the debate when they devoted a full hour to lenges and emerged not only unscathed, but the a lottery-style drawing to determine which 10 evening’s dominant personalities. The second “debate night” was different. would go on which night. it was bizarre, with The TV moderators coneach draw shown live, sitinued to use Sanders’ and multaneously, on three Warren’s progressive cameras– each from a difagenda as foils, baiting the ferent angle. The draws This is not the way it 10 on stage to challenge were preceded by the muthem, even though they sical equivalent of a drumshould be. We should be weren’t there to explain roll, followed by able to elect the person what was actually in their commentary about “what The rest of the this draw means.” The atwho will lead us (and much proposals. evening was a pretty mosphere created was more that of a TV game of the world) into the future messy affair, as the candidates attacked each other, show. based on their policies, with the two current onThis continued in the days leading up to “debate their ability to effectively stage leaders, Biden and Harris, bearing the brunt night” – with endless comorganize, and their life’s of the attacks. Biden mentary from pundits looked defensive and, at sounding a lot like sports work, not on their times, flustered. Although analysts “gaming the match-ups”, as if we were showmanship or their one- Harris was crowned as the “star” of the first debate getting set for a profesup-man-ship in a reality for her gimmicky chalsional boxing match. “Will lenge to Biden’s opposiSenators Warren and TV-style game show tion to federally mandated Sanders go after each busing to end school segother?” “Will Vice Presiregation, but when chaldent Biden be ready to delenged in this debate for fend himself against her record as a prosecutor, she didn’t fare as another attack from Senator Harris?” debate night featured more of the same, well. in fact, the star of the night was Senator complete with an hour and a half “pre-game cory Booker whose winsome personality and show” that featured rousing warm-up speeches– calm demeanor kept him largely above the fray. So, there you have it. After two nights in “Are you ready, democrats?”– and an actual “warm-up guy” who came onto the stage, i kid which millions of dollars were spent (and milyou not, with this, “You are a great looking au- lions in advertising revenues were earned), dience, really!”– followed by instructions as to what we got were a few memorable lines, a few lasting impressions, a few battered candidates, when to applaud and when not to. There was a time (like back in 1984), when a few who weathered attacks, and a lot of heat the debates were driven by the candidates. now with very little light. This is not the way it should be. We should too much attention and control has been given to the TV personalities. it is they, not the candi- be able to elect the person who will lead us (and dates, who drive the process, with their obvious much of the world) into the future based on biases on display and their intention to stir the their policies, their ability to effectively organize, and their life’s work, not on their showmanpot in order to make for a good show. This was clear from the beginning as one of ship or their one-up-man-ship in a reality the TV hosts saw it as his job to debunk Senator TV-style game show. And, as was the case in 1984, i believe that Sanders’ and Warren’s proposed Medicare For All legislation. After trying, himself, to set the even a year from now most voters will have troutrap by repeatedly asking Warren whether she ble remembering who else, other than a few nowould raise taxes for the middle class to pay for table stars, were on that debate stage in detroit. her proposal, he shifted gears, prodding some Dr James J zogby is President, Arab of the other less known candidates to challenge American Institute. both Warren and Sanders.

Toni Morrison died in new York city at the age of 88. The nobel literature laureate had authored almost 11 novels apart from children’s books. Way back in 1993, Morrison had become the first African-American woman to win the nobel Literature Prize. Most American English newspapers have been singing the praises of Morrison. For example, The New York Times has called her a towering novelist in its coverage. Her writing prowess had been widely accepted and applauded at the world stage. The fact that her novels like Beloved hugely exposed the facets of the African-American slavery, and the omnipresent reach and the impact created by her writing and speech skills are far more inspiring. Speaking of all these interesting stories, i as an English content writer and as an English trainer have just got inspired to no end. The interesting fact is that there have been interesting and beautiful English newspapers, magazines and books aplenty around the world. A voracious reader and a “book lover”, i have been buying a lot of English newspapers and books in various places. All i do/want in the morning is to go to the newspaper stalls wherever i am. This having been the effect of my humble study of culture and passion for languages. i sincerely convey my condolences on the demise of Toni Morrison. The international media houses should pitch for such great authors to literally fill up the world with beautiful books and newspapers that are replete with inspiring stories and words. P SeNTHIL SARAvAN DuRAI Mumbai

Hindutva: An ultraextremist ideology ExTrEMiST to the core and immensely intolerant to the people of other identities, Hindutva is an ultra-extremist ideology whose radical leitmotif is to wipe out the Muslims in particular and non-Hindus of india in general. Establishing a uni-national identity—Hinduism—in india is its main agenda. Stripping Muslims of indian citizenship, lynching them, rapes, murders, mass murders, and genociding Kashmiri people are all its unmasked tactics to steer clear its way towards its sinister objectives. Brainwashed by this rabid ideology, its adherents—like Modi—have become brutal beasts in india who have been preying on innocent lives there unhindered. The so-called indian secularism and world’s largest democracy have now dwarfed before it. Modi’s recent expansionist, unilateral move about Kashmir has laid bare its ugly face, and now that day is not far away when this ideology will boomerang and meet its nemesis soon in a befitting manner. RIAz AHMeD SooMRo Shikarpur

China’s position on Kashmir EVEn before indian minister for foreign affairs air-dashed to china, india’s jaundiced news channels and print media blared that chinese foreign minister has, in a tweet, called up Pakistan to multilateralise the Kashmir issue, ‘india’s internal matter’. The media claims the USA and russia have already shunned Pakistan. Pak media however say china supports even recourse to the Security council. india’s draconian scrapping of Article 370 and converting disputed Ladakh into an indian-Union territory impinges even china. Bilateralism did not help solve the Kashmir tangle for 70 years. Why not approach Un instead of fighting another war on Kashmir? is the Un not a forum for peaceful resolution of disputes? SMAN JAAveD MALIk Rawalpindi

The govt must perform THE incumbent government must come out of its utopian world to reality. The government must realise that it is made up of humans and hence it has weaknesses. They are likely to make mistakes and there is no harm in accepting and correcting those. The illusion that “we are beyond mistakes and errors” is what destroyed previous governments. it is further reinforced by blind followers who tend to support and defend every right or wrong decision of their leader for personal satisfaction or petty gains. According to Burke, government is a contrivance of human wisdom with the primary duty to provide basic amenities of life as well as to protect life and property of citizens. in a democratic system everyone is equal and ought to be respected without any discrimination. Victimisation and bullying opponents while in power is not democratic, but hallmark of tyranny. Moreover, whatever the system of government, money matters. When people are poor and start getting marginalised by the policies of government, they don’t care about loud speeches and tall claims. They want to see results. i think enough time has passed for the present government to now come out of the election mode and start performing. Just keeping making promises they can’t keep and blaming everything under the world on their opponents is not going to take them far. They have to realise that the loud speeches by lawmakers and senators to revive economy do not make much of a difference. Unless they work hard and put forth a solid plan followed by strong effort, nothing is going to change and they will disappear in history like their predecessors. RAJA SHAFAATuLLAH Islamabad

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