The Presidential Debate and Voice of America: “Very Rusty Tonight”

“He was very rusty tonight” – that’s how the BBC quotes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as he “rated”  U.S. president Barack Obama‘s performance.  Mitt Romney‘s performance, on the other hand, was probably a positive surprise to many of the Republican supporters.

For cultural reasons probably, I wouldn’t have been able to tell who of the two candidates did better – except that Obama occasionally seemed to lack concentration or focus -, but many commenters seemed to see that lack throughout the debate. Romney had his share of stutters, too, but he seemed to be more focused. And as for my lack of cultural insight, Michael Moore filled some of my gaps – because he criticized the moderator, Jim Lehrer:

Eastwood’s chair would do a better job moderating this debate. Romney is both candidate and moderator. Has Clinton arrived yet???!

Maybe Moore would “stop the subsidy to PBS”, just as Mitt Romney would. Anyway – Moore’s criticism of Lehrer seems to suggest to me that he sees Romney as the winner of this debate. But then, maybe Lehrer did a lousy job. Again, for cultural reasons, I can’t tell.

They say that presidential debates don’t sway many voters either way in America. Television debates in Germany don’t either – at least that’s what German television watchers say themselves. Either way, I remember a German television debate where the incumbent looked unusually tired during the first debate, and then went on to “win” the second and last debate: that was Gerhard Schröder, against his challenger Edmund Stoiber, in summer 2002. Similar to Romney, nobody ever expected Stoiber to do well in a debate – that worked to his advantage, at least in the beginning.

What I can tell though is that the Voice of America (VoA) did a lousy job. I tried all their far-Eastern frequencies at 01:00 UTC, and got nothing but international news there – I stopped trying at 01:25 UTC and then watched the debate on the internet. Granted – 09:00 a.m. local time in China or 08:00 a.m. in Vietnam may not be a time when too many people would listen to the radio anyway. But then, why would they bother to broadcast to the region at that time of the day at all?

No matter if Jim Lehrer did a good or bad job, presidential debates are a proud institution – something VoA should cover live – on shortwave.

One Comment to “The Presidential Debate and Voice of America: “Very Rusty Tonight””

  1. In the UK we’ve held what have amounted to prime ministerial debates now every week for centuries (yes, I know, the old ‘5000 years’ line), yet whilst the better debaters often made better prime ministers (in recent year Thatcher and Blair especially), this was more obviously an indication of their personal wit, the quality of their staff, and the support they received from their party (the representatives of which are sitting with them as they speak and asking a good portion of the questions) than any specific prime ministerial ability.


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