The Man from Flyover Country: A Debate Post-Mortem

By Michael S. Pappas

The debates are over. We have suffered through them and lived to see another day (glory to God for this ineffable condescension!). For some, they were informational, as these people are “undecided”. For others, we couldn’t bear to watch, either out of apathy or being so turned off by the process that we’d rather just catch the Cliff Notes than slog through three sessions of ninety minutes listening to it all, preferring to do something else productive instead (returning library books and cleaning out the lint baffle on the dryer come to mind).

For many of us in Flyover Country, myself included, knowing we’d have access to the post-mortem commentary with the requisite number of instant replays was enough to choose option #2. And we don’t apologize for it. Before you come down on me for daring to comment without having seen the debates with my own eyes, save it. In Flyover Country, there is a pragmatism that overrides righteous indignation. In this case, my actions are justified.

P.S. I watched several stations give their spin after each debate, and since there is only one fairly conservative station, use your imagination on what I absorbed. Great sport. Sometimes the less seriously you take it, the better you sleep.

Most of us already know for whom we will vote. For many of us, how each candidate performed is irrelevant – who it is is who it is. I defend those of us on both sides of the aisle here. This indicates a purely ideological preference. Either you like big government, massive debt, oppressive taxation and all the trappings thereof, or you prefer the free market, lower taxes, limited government and all of its trappings. Each candidate intrinsically stands for something very different from the other. For those who are, after exhaustive and full explanation of each platform, still “undecided”, a prayer will be said, knowing that each’s vote will fully nullify one of those of stronger conviction.

If there is not a sufficient (I’ll refrain from saying full) understanding of what each candidate will do upon coronation, er, er, election, what are the factors going into the final decision? Here is where we risk sliding into the ridiculous.

Many of us will look at the body language of each candidate. Many will consider how each thrust and parried, looking at debate style points. Many will look to see if either candidate did or did not “offend” an interest group. Sadly, still others will feel guilt, anger, or other emotions. All of these really miss the point.

At the end of the day, to hell with the style points, who will steer the country in the right direction?

The folly of the debates is that they rarely make a difference. But, rarely and never are two different words. 1960 comes to mind. Nixon, badly made up, no match for the dashing and debonair Kennedy, lost the election in the debate. In 1980, Reagan used a few quips and dogged conviction to show the country that he could lead. In 2012, with a universal press putting stock in the first debate, Romney displayed a yearning to lead, and Obama was unprepared, visibly irritated with even being there, and so bad in his presentation that even the liberal media called the first debate for Romney.

Don’t blame Romney.

From then on, it has been Romney’s to lose. All he had to do was create a draw scenario and not “step in it”, and he could ride the progressively growing wave of poll support to the White House. And he is riding that wave.

In an environment where it was entirely possible for both candidates to shadow punch their way to three effective draws, Obama is the one who had the tragic flaw. It will cost him. Not with those to whom the debate results don’t matter, but with those to whom it will. Such are the perils of this format.

Don’t blame Romney.

Couple this with the lengthy election time period. Heck, in Europe, they would never think to drag out an election cycle this long. But this is our country, and our tradition (strange word for this example!) is our tradition. Combine the first debate with several weeks for it all to sink in with those who are “undecided”, and what you see is a steady shift toward the Republican, as the first debate (along with Libya) together with Romney’s “looking Presidential” and hammering away at his strength, the economy, starts to make progressively more and more sense. Time is cruel to Obama here. What was still an Obama edge the morning after the first debate could very well be a landslide by November 6th.

Don’t blame Romney.

Whether it is fair or not to rely on externalities such as body language, strutting around the room or interruptions is really not the question, although I personally wish more of those in the middle would grow a backbone. It is what it is. And those in the middle will decide the election. Whether those on either side of the aisle, and I do mean that in a bi-partisan way, like it or not. One can only hope that the “undecided” listened to what each said, and what each stands for. The passage of time indicates that the more the undecided think about the first debate together with each’s very message, the fewer are undecided.

Don’t blame Romney.

I will hope to review what has happened as well as what will happen after the election in upcoming articles. Until then, we can only hope that there will mercifully be an end to the 888 and 202 area code calls with the recorded messages, and we can move forward with phone calls being from people we know.


  1. Archpriest John W. Morris says

    As an historian, I must note that the 1960 election was much more than a matter of how bad Nixon looked during the first debate. Most historians agree that Mayor Daily in Illinois and Johnson’s friends in Texas stole the election for Kennedy.

    • Father John, bless!

      Not necessarily: Did JFK lose the popular vote to Nixon?

      • Bruce Wm. Trakas says

        No, but many independent analysts agree that fraud was committed in Chicago and the State of Texas.

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        Kenndey won by a little over 100,000 votes. Kennedy won Illinois by about 9,000 votes. Mayor Daily held back the results from Cook County until he knew how many votes were needed to win the state. There were counties in Texas that went for Kennedy, but there had more voters than people. There is very little doubt that the election of 1960 was stolen.
        Look for that to happen in this election. Obama’s people will go to court to keep the voting places open longer in Democratic areas than in Republican areas. Then the votes from Democratic areas will be the last to be reported in several states. You can draw your own conclusions from these events, but they will happen.
        I have often though about what would had happened had Nixon won in 1960. We might not have had the Vietnam war, or if we had had it we might have fought to win instead of fighting with no purpose or direction the way we fought. I will never forgive Johnson for the needless death of 58,000 Americans not to mention God knows how many Vietnamese as well as the harm that the war did to the fabric of our country. We also would not have wasted 15 trillion dollars on the War on Poverty, that poverty won.
        Significantly this was the first time that both the president and vice president were both from the U.S. Senate. The second time was the election of Obama and Biden.

    • Bruce Wm. Trakas says

      But Father, I’ve read that those who heard the first debate over the radio felt Nixon won, those who watched it on TV felt Kennedy won.

      In my opinion, on substance, as the challenger to the Vice President, the debates gave Kennedy the opportunity to demonstrate his presidential competence; Vice President Nixon’s competence was assumed. The debates demonstrated not much difference in the policies of each candidate, both proposing increased defense spending.

      Kennedy scored points accusing the Eisenhower administration of a missile gap with the Soviets. Other than denying it, Nixon couldn’t refute the allegation because American intelligence information about Soviet defense systems was confidential. Not more than a month into Kennedy’s administration, Defense Secretary McNamara told him America was way ahead of the Soviet Union in missile strength; Kennedy authorized him to release this opinion. Kennedy also created a phony issue over whether America should use military force if Red China attempted to take the islands of Quemoy and Matsu (sp?) which were not populated if I’m not mistaken.

      Kennedy’s wrongful allegations about America’s lack of military preparedness infuriated President Eisenhower, the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in WW II. Eisenhower kept defense spending down being opposed to deficit spending.

      Kennedy attacked Nixon on conservative turf issues.

      In “The Making of A President 1960,” Theodore White, in his preface, acknowledges his attraction to Kennedy’s charisma, and commends both candidates as being exceptionally well qualified.

      P.S. In my opinion, this was the last federal election when the Democrat Party was centrist, as opposed to the liberalism that Johnson implemented, removing the Social Security Trust Fund and spending its revenues on the annual budget, and of course, the “Great Society” programs, a program for every need, and the “War on Poverty.”.

      • Archpriest John W. Morris says

        You are right. I am not a specialist in this period of American history, but I have taught the second half of American history on the college level. Almost every text that used made the observation that those who heard the debate on the radio thought that Nixon won.
        You are right, Kennedy would be ran out of the modern Democratic party today for being too conservative especially Obama’s Democratic party. It seems that the major plank in Obama’s platform is to raise taxes on the rich. Kennedy lowered taxes because he realized that if people have money they spend it and that stimulates the economy which actually means that the government receives more tax revenue.
        Kennedy had great PR but was not really that good a President. He had a chance to get rid of Castro and blew it during the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He came off as weak during his meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna. That led to the building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile crisis that almost got us into war with the Soviet Union which was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Good points about Kennedy. We forget that the the Soviets got what they wanted out of the Cuban Missile Crisis –the removal of the Jupiter missiles from Turkey.

          On another note, I’ve never been fond of the multitudinous conspiracy theories attributed to the JFK assassination (read Case Closed for example) but I can’t help shake the feeling that Kennedy’s Executive Order which tried to buy back some of the US debt with silver certificates might have made certain people mad.

          • Archpriest John W. Morris says

            I have always doubted most of the conspiracy theories, except that the murder of Oswald by Ruby has always made me wonder if he was killed to keep him from revealing something. I also remember hearing that day the people in Daily Plaza said that the shots came from the grassy knoll.

  2. Ummmm…….i guess so…..

  3. The petition is not something intuitive to find. If you Google Metropolitan Jonah and petition, you get one that closed quite a while ago. But at least some folks found it

  4. Sean Richardson says

    I already sent in my absentee ballot … why am I still getting those 888 and 202 recorded messages?

  5. What I can’t stand during this election period and actually all the time and whatever the subject, are the people who are paid good money to run at the mouth with their opinions of what will happen,, what is happening, and what did happen. It seems as if everything has to be pre-analyzed and then digested for us, as we are incapable of figuring it out ourselves.

  6. Although my choice between the two was made long ago, it troubles me deeply that this third debate on foreign policy only further emphasized that each candidate in his own way has very little understanding of the realities the world outside of the American bubble – either that or they were merely singing to choir of popular, albeit wrong-headed, ideas.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Yeah, speaking for myself, I take issue with Romney being advised by neocons who by some strange necessity, feel that we must always hate and fear Russia. Other than than, Obama has been nothing but a sheer disaster. If you don’t believe me, look at the latest stuff about Benghazi. Reprehensible.

      • Russia is the one country that will actually like us more and cooperate with us more if we identify them as our most significant foe. Identifying them as such is good not only for our relationship with Russia but also with Iran, North Korea, etc. … China’s a bit of a toss-up, they do want respect, but they are fine with less overt and non-verbal signs of respect.

        • Archpriest John W. Morris says

          I have always felt that Russia would be our natural ally in the conflict with radical Islam. We missed a great opportunity by not seeking to work with them to defeat the Islamic terrorism. But we missed the opportunity.

      • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

        You’ve got that right George. There is no functional difference between liberal and neo-con foreign policy, except that liberal policy is more hawkish – Egypt, Libya, Syria and all that.

        The economy will immediately start to improve once Romney is elected although it is going to take a while to dig ourselves out of this hole. If Romney’s foreign policy is neo-con though, we may not see a walk back of the Obama military expansionism.

        • Harry Coin says

          I’m not so sure. Looking at Clinton — would neocons have bombed Serbia and turned a blind eye to murder by Islamic folks? Then there’s Madeline Albright I think it was, of State Dept fame who thought Israeli Jews should pack it in and move back to Poland or similar?

          • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

            Yes, they would have Harry. The neo-con establishment was all behind it (The Weekly Standard and so forth). When liberals go to war, you can be sure the neo-cons are right behind them. The only war a liberal does not like is one started by a neo-con, although that changes as soon as the Republican neo-con is replaced by a Democrat. That’s what we saw with Obama’s election. There was not a peep of objection from the liberal side about the expansive interference into Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

            Neo-con’s are waking up to the Egypt-Libya-Syria debacle though. I heard Fred Barnes speak when I was in Washington a few weeks ago and he is expressing doubts about the entire “Arab Spring” ideology. I challenged the ideology with some movers and shakers about eight months earlier and thought I was going to get thrown out of the room the tension was so thick. Fortunately there was one person there whose specialty was Christian persecution around the world and confirmed my point that the Orthodox Christians were suffering because of American policy. This time around they were a lot closer to reality. It was good to see.

            The big question is of course which way will Romney go. We’ll know as soon as we see his picks for his Cabinet. We already know which way Obama will go – quagmire. If it is true that Obama held back protection for Americans in the Libya attack last month, my view is that he should be impeached if he wins reelection.

            • Archpriest John W. Morris says

              Obama took us into a war in Libya without congressional approval. That alone should be grounds for impeachment for abuse of power. He has also violated the constitution by ignoring the authority of congress to make the laws and has begun to rule through decrees. God help us if he is reelected and does not have to worry about re-election. He will show his true colors and become the dictator that he really wants to be because he does not respect our constitutional government. We won the Cold War, but it looks as if Marx really won through the election of Obama.

  7. cynthiacurran says

    Well, I would not trust Putin either, he gave Hugo Chavez a puppy. Both countries make money from oil but what other reason does Putin need to hang around Chavez. As for Nixon, Ted Kennedy attended Nixon’s funerial at the Nixon library because Nixon didn’t contest the election.

  8. cynthiacurran says

    I think Romney is another Reagan instead of a Bush. He governed a Democratic State while Reagan also governed a Democratic state. Bush came from a Republician state where he was able to get what he wanted easier hence he was more willing to jump into ywo wars. Romney is use to more opposition and probably will be more careful and hopefully more sly like Reagan. Not saying Reagan was perfect there was Lebanon that failed.

  9. Bill Christensen says

    Things that disappointed me from the debates.

    1)The erozone crisis was not mentioned and discussed which could have a profound effect on our economic recovery. (a real headwind and the cause of the market going up and down like a basket ball depending on who sneezes.

    2) Climate change, perhaps a global existential issue was not mentioned at all. It is warming for now but no body knows (other than theory, what is responsible for it or primarily responsible). If CO2 from burning coal is the cause of (80%),we might be able to slow it down. BUT if our burning of coal and oil is only 20% we could cut back our CO2 and NOT have ANY effect.. Climate change is the right way to frame it because it will cause cooling in some areas of nations.

    3) Some believe (neocons AKA “bomber boys”) believe we can still determine events in the Middle east by force of arms. Force of arms will backfire unless used judiciously and cooperatively in a world still sensitive to the old colonial days. Our entry into war in Iraq and Afghanistan is a tragic loss. The tribal society is still reigning and their own people are blowing themselves up. Religious difference are at the level of swords and guns in resolving those differences—a waste of trillions by us. Anti govt Syrians consist of an amalgamation of different disparate groups in terms of their goals ranging from Sharia law only, to democracy. We do not know who to arm to stop the slaughter. We might as well just wait and see. We have no control.

    4) My thoughts are that a nuclear Iran is NOT the greatest threat to America’s security. A nuclear coup in Pakistan would be far more frightening to me, if some group like the Salafists attempt a coup and are successful. All the people are poor and have nothing, literally, to lose. The simplistic dialogues on both sides are disheartening. MESSY is unavoidable in the middle east.

    I am very much disheartened with the American electors, as being over simplified, naive, and uninformed. So what the candidates have to deal with is simple sound bites. They can’t handle any intelligent discussion.