Mashed Potato Bulletin

A journal grappling with the mish-mash of American politics

Brian Carter

Brian Carter
Northern, California, USA
October 23
My professional and academic background is fairly broad including a Bachelor's in Cultural Anthropology, a Master's in Environmental Science along with a hefty injection of world history in the mix. Professionally, my experience is in public health and environmental health where I have been lucky enough to work with people from varied backgrounds and cultures. I started the Mashed Potato Bulletin to explore answers to questions not being asked and to insert, hopefully, a broader perspective into the current conversation. -----------------------------------


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 28, 2011 4:35PM

Does Perry's Debate Regret Speak to a Broader Trend?

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      Rick Perry in a Fox News Tuesday interview stated if there was one mistake he's made during his presidential primary campaign was "probably ever doing one of the" debates and went on to say, "All they’re interested in is stirring it up between the candidates instead of really talking about the issues that are important to the American people," Later it was reported that Perry may pass on further debates.

      But haven't these debates already proven productive allowing for open dialogue about the issues and each candidate's ideas for addressing them? The debates have also allowed the voting public to hear direct arguments for and against these individual policies. The candidates had an active platform to defend their ideas in a public forum along side their peers providing voters an opportunity a glimpse at how each will conduct themselves in similar situations as president.

       What is the root of Perry's discontent? Perhaps there is more concern among the candidates of today with passing their bases' purity tests on ideology rather than running on and defending their policy ideas in a substantive manner. Gloria Borger, in her piece “The Perry approach -- campaign first, have ideas later”, argues that Perry and other presidential candidates seem to be auditioning for the job with judgments based on their adherence to the conservative belief system as opposed to vetted policy plans.

     Is this reaction by Rick Perry a response to a perceived need to pass the base's tests? Or does it reflect a broader trend where politicians are avoiding situations, like these debates, where their comments and claims are questioned, where their policy ideas are subjected to tests of validity?

     Since Sara Palin's coining of the phrase “gotcha journalism”, in response to Charlie Gibson's question about the Bush doctrine and Katie Couric's, “What magazines do you read?”, it has become a term used by many politicians to describe any pointed questions aimed at clarifying their claims, comments or policy ideas their campaigns put forth.

     The trend was quite evident during the 2010 midterm election season. Sharron Angle's non-conservative press avoidance was obvious during here Nevada Senate run with video of here hastily eluding a reporter in a parking lot after a speech and implying she'll perform interviews after she's elected. Christine O'Donnell and Rand Paul canceled interview appearances after publicized missteps. Senator Russ Feingold and his opponent Ron Johnson kept their appearance schedules from local newspapers and Representative Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania avoided holding town hall meetings. Gubernatorial races were not immune either with Rick Perry refusing to debate his opponent and Jan Brewer of Arizona who canceled additional debates after a poor performance.

      This summer's congressional recesses saw the trend continued with numerous candidates avoiding in-person town halls opting instead for conference calls and controlled appearances.

     Expressing his frustration with a perceived media bias recently, Newt Gingrich chastised the moderator during the MSNBC primary debate for sowing the seeds of divisiveness among the GOP candidates by asking them to comment on the similarities between Mitt Romney's Massachusetts' health care law and the Affordable Care Act. From the exchange it appeared Gingrich was essentially accusing the moderator for inciting debate...during a debate. He claimed comparative criticism between “Romneycare” and “Obamacare” was not a valid topic for the event even though it was mentioned in numerous campaign speeches leading up to the debate. 


     Joe Biden was also caught up in this when he was faced with unexpected questions about his comments pertaining to increases in crime during poor economic times. In the heated exchange Biden display irritation at the reporter's direct questioning even stating, “Don't screw around with me. Let's get it straight.". In the end, Politifact found the Vice President's claim that murder and rape would increase if police were laid off in Flint, Michigan was Half True.

Where does this leave the average voter?

     In the end if politicians choose to avoid situations where their policy ideas are subjected to serious assessment, where their claims are held to account and where their abilities to debate can be evaluated are they not performing a disservice to the American voting public? Isn't it in the best interest of the country to determine the viability of politicians' policies and plans before they are elected into office? And is it not a benefit to the average voter to gauge a candidate's ability to function throughout the debate process? Because if a candidate cannot sustain themselves through multiple debates then what would convince prospective voters they are capable of effectively handling the rigors of the Office of the President?

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This ties in with your last post, and I'm glad you called attention to it. Perry may well take a page out of Palin's playbook and only speak through Fox or media outlets sympathetic to his message. It may well work for the primary. Look at Gingrich. The more the media ignores him the better he does in the polls lol.
Perry's attitude has a history. During his last run for Governor, he refused to debate anyone! He only gave speeches in front of supportive audiences and of course won handily. The Texas electorate did NOT demand that he debate ideas with the other candidates. So, he has had no recent practice in debating successfully because he really does know that he isn't very good at it. He feels more comfortable smirking and tossing out the old rhetoric along with spicing it up with tea party words rather than real ideas and solutions. He just does what he wants to. Terrible for a president!

I don't see any journalists nailing him on this or the other candidates getting up in his his face for the real reasons he is "dropping out" of the debates but to drop him off the face of the election 2012, it is malpractice if someone doesn' expose these facts over and over again.

We know "our" Perry and he is NOT presidential material. He has been a lousy over-partisan governor too!

From McKinney, Texas
I agree Perry may have been tossing around that Fox only campaign strategy like Palin did or at least stick with supporter-only appearances. But I did just see an article on CNN that said he's going to continue with the debates but he "won't like it."

And it is surprising that Gingrich is still hanging in there. I suppose the poor media coverage keeps any mistakes out of the spotlight. It also seems to working for Ron Paul too. Very little media focus and he still has a strong showing in the polls.
Thanks for the first-hand, local experience with Perry. I was pretty surprised while researching this post that he actually refused to debate. And it's crazy that the electorate didn't demand anything.

I think the lack of journalists pushing issues like this is related to what I was getting at here. Just like politicians are avoiding the media the media is also in many ways walking on eggshells when interviewing them. They seem to be wary of pushing them too hard for fear they will not accept subsequent interviews.

In the end it's the American voting public and the country loses out.
Perry can avoid debates, but he risks not enough people hearing of him if he does that, with the attendant ill of not enough campaign cash.

Ultimately, I think it is hard to get elected without attracting enough attention to flush out stupid or half-baked ideas.
"Ultimately, I think it is hard to get elected without attracting enough attention to flush out stupid or half-baked ideas."

Very true Malusinka! Very true!