Confucius: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”
The results are in. Michael Bloomberg will not be president. He, the pundits agreed, is a lousy debater and perforce, will be rejected in his campaign to be the nominee of the Democrat party. We’ll see.
The real loser last Wednesday evening was NBC/MSNBC. They produced a terrible debate. I was reminded of a cockfight (which is outlawed). According to Wikipedia “Being a spectator at a cockfight is prohibited in 43 states and the District of Columbia.” I wish I had known—several hours would have been saved.
The only way to have a real debate is with rules and enforced order. Talking over others should be ruled out of order. As should distracting hand-waving; I thought Elizabeth Warren might take flight. And there should be a timekeeper who muted microphones when time is up. But, not intending to write a handbook on debate rules, give me a minute of your time on questions.
The question of the night seemed to be asked of Senator Amy Klobuchar. She was asked why she could not remember the name of the Mexican president. She said and I paraphrase: I forgot it and want to apologize and went on to talk admiringly of her work in the United States Senate on matters pertaining to Mexico. Self-admiration is not in short supply in the debates. After she was asked a second time about her failure Senator Warren admonished the questioner. Perhaps the questioner forgot she had answered.
In lieu of questions intended to provoke the verbal equivalent of a cockfight, let me suggest a few alternatives.
First, Senator Sanders we live in a federalist system, please tell me which State programs you believe are making measurable progress in reducing poverty?
The next question is for Senator Warren. What steps would you take to resolve the nuclear crisis with North Korea?
Mayor Buttigieg, climate change threats will require the central government to issue command and control regulations. What do you favor?
Vice President Biden. What would you do as President that you couldn’t talk President Obama in to doing when you were his Vice-President?
Senator Klobuchar, are there steps we should take in post-secondary education that would provide a less disruptive career path for young adults?
And finally to Mayor Bloomberg. You have been an active philanthropist. Have you gained any insights on what works that would cause you to change the government’s approach to intractable problems?
Finally, I thought Mayor Bloomberg made a telling point when he asked of his debate contestants whether any had started a business. Doing things is often more instructive than talking about things.
And, NBC/MSNBC should now understand that voters do not choose saints. The election of Donald Trump was instructive. Probe for the sinners choices—for how they would lead our government.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.