VOX POPULI: Debates Are All Theater

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By IKU KIRIYAMA

The “undecided” and others are basing their presidential candidate choice by the debates?  That is a real concern. But not surprising when we seem to have attention spans for 30-second commercial spots, 140-character Tweets, and obvious Super Pac-produced and funded videos on YouTube and sent circulating by email as the gospel truth by people ready to believe anything they see.

Iku Kiriyama

We are told who “won” the debates according to quick phone calls and TV focus groups. Words like “performance,” “likeability,” “connecting to the audience,” how they stand, where they put their hands, fingers and eyes. They’re too aggressive or not aggressive enough. Body-language experts interpret “really important” things like pointing with a finger vs. the whole hand. Why are we treating such an important decision like the Academy Awards? We are NOT voting for “best actor” but the president of the United States!

The debates are scripted and the lines practiced until they can be recited in their sleep. The candidates are told to stay focused and to keep returning to the “message,” no matter how incongruous it may be at that point in time or the context of the question. They play-act their parts with surrogates until they get it right. And, of course, their campaign advisors can worry less about a candidate who has “foot in mouth” problems when he says what he REALLY thinks.

It would serve our country better if we kept up with the candidates and the issues. What they say in unguarded moments or during unscripted interviews tell us more about who they really are.

When I read Trisha Murakawa’s article “The Lesson” in the “Through the Fire” column, I said, “Yes!” The public needs to be reminded or told if they missed these comments. I commend Trisha for educating and guiding her children so they can make decisions thoughtfully when they are old enough to vote.

It amazes me that it seems to go unnoticed with many in the voting public the shift that Romney has danced through —  from being a “severely conservative Republican” (his words during the primary when he was fighting his own party’s doubts as to where he stood), to the centrist “moderate” Romney. To say 47% of voters are takers and lost to him to “I’m for 100% of the people.”

I would like to add one more comment that Romney made to Trisha’s list. This is a comment I personally heard one evening a few months ago while watching the news. It’s a comment that no one else seems to have picked up on – not on CNN, not in print. I was multi-tasking at the time, reading a novel, when a short clip came on the news that caught my immediate attention. A reporter asked Romney what he thought was the economic challenge to the middle class in these difficult times. He said, “Whether they go to the movies or not.”

I jumped up, screamed at him on the TV. I could not believe how clueless and out of touch he is with the 98% that are not on HIS economic level (actually top 1%). For the next few days, I watched for any reaction and saw nor heard anything.

I asked my son, George, about it when he came home from San Jose. He is a reporter for NBC Bay Area, and, not only that, he has been a “political junkie” from way back in his elementary school days (yes, that far back). He said the only thing he saw was a little chatter on Facebook.

I heard Romney say this with my own ears. It was not second-hand or third-hand, reported or written by someone. It was not on a hit-piece video. It was “from the horse’s mouth.”

It scares me every day that I see a poll that shows the race getting tight because of the debates.  It scares me that I know in the last few weeks and days of a campaign hit pieces come out that people will believe. It scares me that a man who says “going to the movies” is the biggest economic challenge to the American middle class might become president of the United States.

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Iku Kiriyama writes from Torrance. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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