I found Twitter pretty interesting that night. Several times there would be two tweets in a row, not in reply to each other but from separate conversations, that went something like this (I'm paraphrasing):
Tweet 1: I know. Obama just lies, lies, lies.Now, it's not that surprising that people would watch the same thing and have two very different reactions based on their preconceived opinions, but I think we need to always be cognizant of that as we view events through the lens of social media.
Tweet 2: Is everything that comes out of Romney's mouth a lie?
But here's the real reason for this post. While I have my own bias and believe that one campaign lies more than the other, both tweeters were correct in the sense that both candidates lied during that debate. Many folks are hesitant to use the "L" word, preferring "stretched the truth" or "misled" or some other euphemism implying that they did tell the truth, must perhaps not the whole truth.
If it was just during the debate, I could almost forgive it, as they are up there without notes and having to respond very quickly and do a lot of political calculations at the same time. (\Which, of course, is one of the reasons I don't think debates are that helpful - do we really want a President that makes decisions without consulting notes or advisors?) But these lies continue into their advertising, their stump speeches, and their media appearances, and that I can't forgive.
I suppose it's probably always been this way in politics, but that doesn't mean it has to be. Especially in these days of instant analysis and fact-checking, I would like our candidates to think and act differently. How about if we had fewer lies (stretches, misleads, whatever), and more exchanges like this:
President Obama: You know Governor, I mispoke earlier when I said you've proposed a $5 trillion tax cut. You've clearly indicated that you are going to close some tax loopholes and end some deductions. So while your actual cuts may total about $5 trillion less in revenue, clearly that's a bit misleading for me to continue to ignore that you are planning on getting some of that back through closing those loopholes and eliminating some deductions. My concern, and my question for you, is exactly what loopholes and deductions are you planning on closing and what's the sum dollar total that will raise to offset the $5 trillion. Because I just don't see how you can close enough loopholes and end enough deductions to make up the shortfall and not increase the deficit?
Governor Romney: Thank you Mr. President, I appreciate that question. You're right, I shouldn't just deny the $5 trillion in cuts, but acknowledge that I am planning on cutting taxes by that amount. I do also plan on closing loopholes and eliminating deductions, but you're also right that I haven't identified specific ones yet and that's a weakness in my proposals. As stated, they will certainly increase the deficit and you're right to call me on it. My belief is . . .
Or something like that. Feel free to reverse the order of the candidates, or change the issue, this was not meant to favor one over the other. But I think the issues they are talking about are too important for them to continue to focus more on winning than on solving the problems we have. (For example, I gave up after sixty minutes, but I don't think there was one question about climate change. Not one. It might be the most serious issue facing not only our country, but the world, and both candidates are trying their best to avoid it.) As someone (I can't recall who) said recently, it would be nice if they focused as much on governing as on winning the race.
So, President Obama and Governor Romney, here's my plea: stop trying to win. Seriously. Have a real discussion. Clearly there are differences in your policies and philosophies, why is it necessary to lie to try to convince people to vote for you? Instead, have a real, serious, educational discussion and then let the voters decide.
Sure, that's probably a bit idealistic. I don't care. That's what leadership is about. It's what we need. It's what we deserve.