Debate Watching for Dummies
Ok folks. One down and three to go. I watched the first debate with a couple of friends and we discussed what we saw. Then we talked about what we saw the commentators, and pundits talk about which leads me to believe that “we” don’t really know “how to watch a debate.” So, here are some helpful hints.
Useful Analogy: Each year, the NFL drafts dozens of college athletes into the pros. The head coaches of these pro teams hold a NFL Combine each year for potential “draftees” to show their stuff. This is when many of the coaches make their final decisions on whether or not they’re going to go with one player or the other. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THEY HAVE SEEN THE POTENTIAL DRAFTEES!!! These players have been under the microscope for some time by the coaching staffs of the prospective pro teams. The combine plays a part in reassuring a choice but not the sole factor in making the choice.
- Do your homework. Use all at your disposal to learn as much as possible about each candidate. You don’t have to become addicted to politics to make an educated choice. There are several television shows that are dedicated to helping you sort through the “political minutia”. Try to stay away from shows and networks that are obviously for or against one candidate. (i.e. don’t watch Fox News at all. MSNBC has shows that lean democratically. CNN is overall your best bet in trying to get a “fair” assessment of both sides.)
- Stay Neutral. Try and have a "reasonably" open mind. Don’t look for zingers and one liners by the “guy or gal” you’re in the tank for but try and listen to what each will say about themselves and what they want to do and not so much what they say about their opponent. Each will try to lead you to believe the other guy has been sent by the devil to carry the country to Hell in a hand basket.
- Your opinion counts. Hey, just because Wulf Blitzer and Campbell Brown make a ton of money to give their opinions doesn’t mean theirs are SO MUCH BETTER THAN YOURS! Opinions are just like ass-holes…we all have them and most of them stink! It’s easy to believe what they say when the debates are over if you’ve not formed an opinion. That’s why it’s a good idea to watch with a few others (not a debate party though) so you can have some discussions about the debate with other thinkers. This is also where knowing how each stands on the issues prior to watching will prove to be helpful.
- Body Language. We all deal with people all the time. We know how it affects our mood depending on how we’re looked at or spoken to. Watch the facial expressions and movement and gestures of each. Remember they are people too. If they look aggravated or bothered to you, they probably are.
- Don’t be a Fool! If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No matter what either candidate says, they can’t do everything. No one person can. They both can only offer ideas and offer plans than they hope they can influence congress and the other departments of the government to work together.
- Know the “Tells” This means that each candidate (most people too) do certain things when they get “in trouble” or start to feel uncomfortable. If you play poker, you’re familiar with this. There are certain things people do when they have a “good” hand and there are certain things people do when they don’t. Likewise, people will do or say certain things when they feel they are answering a “good” question or a “bad” one. If you’ve “done your homework” than you’ve probably seen each of the candidates somewhat uncomfortable with some questions. Palin tends to ramble and put several talking points together (whether they go together or not). Biden tends to start of saying “ladies and gentlemen” before he starts to “wing it.” John McCain tends to call his audience “my friends” when he starts to “play it by ear.” Obama will start to smile and seem to “enjoy” whatever is happening even more. Many feel that him saying “uh” a lot is a “tell” but it probably can be more attributed to him trying to be thoughtful and not “mess-up” and stick his foot in his mouth. He seems to be uncomfortable with “awkward silences”.
- Who Won? Reguardless what you might think, you shouldn't just go with the "guy" or "gal" you like in the begining and already know "they" won before the debate. It's best to use some type of Rubric to decide this. I've inclosed one below. Just click on it to make it larger and print it out. Use it as a Score Sheet while watching and then simply add up the points @ the end. This will be more fun and entertaining if you do this with a friend and average the scores. This will be even MORE fun if the person(s) scoring with you is leaning in the opposite direction you are.
I look forward to seeing how you scored the future debates. i'll include my score sheets as well;-) If you want to scan you sheets and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org I'll be sure to post your scores too!