Wednesday night, I counted myself among the millions of Americans who watched two children bicker for an hour and a half.
I of course am referring not to the "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" mini-marathon on "E!," but rather the first presidential debate between our incumbent president, Barack Obama, and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
When I tuned into the debate, I have to admit that I was truly excited. I thought I was about to witness 90 minutes of pure rhetoric and stats. I was sure that a whole hour and a half of concrete plans for our country's ever-darkening future was about to follow. Ultimately, I expected to get answers on how both of these two men expected to not only win the election, but also in what direction they saw this country going in from this junction.
And what did I get from it?
Nothing. Last night's debate was a sham, and honestly an exercise in futility made by both characters.
Instead of using the debate as a forum to advance either candidate's cause and plans, last night was a sandbox fight between two six-year-olds over the slightest issues. The only issue that could have been gleaned from last night was that both men are obsessed with semantics and technicalities, and not the well-being of this country.
Instead of pressing his advantage on the vagueness of the Romney campaign's promises and plans, Obama got stuck in a rut of bleating out the words "five trillion dollar tax cut" over and over again. It got to the point that I was starting to be lulled into the belief that Romney didn't propose a cut, and that was only because that happened to be the only straight answer he gave last night. Obama's strategy may have been to stay above the fray, but ultimately he looked underprepared and aloof (which would happen to anyone who spent the past two days in NATO meetings over Syria).
As for Romney, last night did reveal a new side to him. He was affable and he was funny, but he was also repetitive and petty at times. Instead of focusing on the issues, Romney felt the need to continually interject himself into Obama's speaking time. And whenever he did step in over the President, Romney refrained from actually combating points and counterpoints. All of his answers were tied around the themes of him standing as a "job creator," who "cared about the middle class," and supported small businesses. It was like listening to a skipping record on repeat, and instead of going to another track, Romney spouted the same information over and over again on every topic.
A debate is meant to be grounded in plans and politics, not partisan-fueled rantings on both sides. After watching last night's debate, I felt less certain over the future of our country for the next four years. It may have only been one debate, but neither candidate acted and performed on the level of deserving the title and power of becoming the single most powerful person in the world. Honestly, I'd almost rather cast a write-in vote for Williams Jennings Bryan's exhumed corpse, because at least he was able to stick to his plans and outlines for the future with a sense of clarity.
At one point in the debate, Obama said that a leader needs to "have a plan" and be able to communicate it. Judging from last night's debate, both candidates either don't have a plan or don't think the American voting public is capable of understanding the specifics of their visions. Neither candidate advanced their causes, nor even explained them last night. They essentially told us to trust them in good faith.
Voting for "change" is great, and so too can be voting for "traditional American values" (whatever those may be, though I do fear the social components that statement carries), but ultimately, I want to vote for specifics. I want to vote for a plan. I want to vote for a definable and defensible future for this country. Judging solely from last night, I won't be voting for either.
There may be a constitutionally-mandated physical age requirement for who can run for president, but I guess there isn't one for emotional maturity.
— Preston Peeden is a senior in history. He can be reached at email@example.com.