Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?

Hello Readers!
     A busy week and weekend has brought us all to another Monday! I hope everyone in the GSAS enjoyed the crisp fall weather this past weekend in New York City.
     This morning over a little cup of joe, I was doing some research for some upcoming blog entries. Knowing that today I could, and should, write something about tonight's Presidential debate, I began reading through some commentary, trying to find an angle for my post. At first, I wanted to write about gender issues that came up in last week's debate. Mitt Romney’s now notorious phrase – “binders full of women” – caused an uproarious social media and internet response in the immediate hours and days following Tuesday night’s debate. The image that the phrase conjured, at least for me, was sort of off-putting, if not unsettling: a white-collared group of men on the Romney staff, pouring over a collection of resumes of a multitude of women, previously unknown to these men, holding a discussion about these said women’s skill sets, experience, achievements, and other qualifications, trying to decide which one (or several?) of the women was worthy enough to join them as a colleague. Instead of achieving the desired effect of making women feel appreciated and respected by Romney, the phrase actually made many women cringe. The New York Times had a great editorial on the subject, and the commentary by readers is equally fascinating, and at times inciting. Check it out here. And let me know what other responses you have found that resonated with you! 
    Gender issues may indeed continue to be the subject of future discussions on this blog. But after searching through some other debate related media on the net, I came across something that may be more relevant and interesting considering that we will all be watching the final debate tonight. What I found was the release of this year's "Memorandum of Understanding" -- ie, the list of agreed upon rules -- for the Presidential Debate, released by the debate Commission for the Debate and published in full by various sources last week, including Time and the Huffington Post. According to the Huff, this is only the 4th time that the agreed upon rules between the two campaigns have ever been released to the public. I thought it would be interesting to take a look, and get a conversation going about what rules these candidates are supposed to be following tonight, and what insights or discussion may follow from investigating them.
    One interesting rule is that the candidates are not supposed to directly address questions to each other; you wouldn't know this was a rule, however, after watching, because this rule was clearly not followed during the debate. Readers, what do you think about this rule and about the participants' breakage of it? What do you think the purpose of this rule is? I suppose ultimately it is to keep the process organized and fair. But what happens if one candidate does break the rule? Should the other candidate -- the one being addressed -- respond? If he does not respond, he runs the risk of looking passive, or not prepared to answer. Also, there is something to be said for those moments in which the candidates DID break that rule -- do you think the moments when the candidates broke this rule were the more intense and provocative than the moments when the candidates avoided interrogating each other?
     Did you also know that there is an agreed upon rule about how the candidates will be addresses, by each other, and the moderator? Obama must be addressed as "Mr. President" or "President Obama," and Romney must be called "Governor" or "Governor Romney." This rule must come in handy for the candidates during heated moments when, in a natural setting, they'd probably tend to use less respectful monikers. But it would be nice to think that there'd be enough genuine respect and civility that this rule wouldn't even have to be stated.
     Also, the candidates must not address any single individual in the audience, excepting their own family members. Is this rule in place to keep candidates from having any kind of advantage over the other? What scenarios would arise in which President Obama and Gov. Romney would be addressing an individual in the audience, to the disadvantage of the other?
    Related to this rule is that, in the first and third debates, no audience partipation is allowed. They are not even allowed to applaud or laugh! Even though the candidates themselves have no control over this rule being followed or broken, I'll be watching tonight to see how well this rule is enforced.
    The candidates are also not allowed to move tonight from their designated position at their table. I don't expect either of the two men will rise up from their table tonight -- but you never know! My question, again, is, why is this rule even needed in the contract? And, if it is broken, what will the consequence be? Perhaps the moderator will instruct the candidate to sit down, but the effect of the candidate rising or moving from his place will not be erased from the audience's mind. It kind of reminds me of when a trial lawyer says a question or statement that she knows will be disallowed by the court, but says it anyway to put it in the jury members' heads.
    These were just some of the rules that caught my attention as I read through the document. Take a look through yourself before the debate tonight, and see if it changes your viewing experience!
    And let me know what you thought!!
    Enjoy tonight!
    Until next time, yours, Liza

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