Before Election Day, a Look Back at the Debates: Did We Learn Anything New?

The third and final presidential debate is over. And, despite the idea that this was the time for the voting public to learn something new about the candidates, looking back all three debates it turns out that there was nothing new to learn. The same things were said over and over again, and it was the same talking points we’ve already heard before. I don’t think there was one truly new thing to be learned here.

Isn’t this nice? We get to do the same thing all over again!

Having watched the second debate on October 16th, I was struck by the number statements I heard during the third debate that were repeated nearly verbatim. And while it was refreshing to hear a discussion on foreign policy during the debate on foreign policy, there was really no new information to be gleaned, by me or anyone else who has been paying attention.

Neither candidate is innocent here. After comparing the second and third 2012 presidential debates, here are some examples of some of the most glaring replications:

First, we heard President Obama discussing Afghan security policy:

October 16 @1:09:13: I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That’s what I’m doing.

October 22 @5:06: We’re now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security, and that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats.

This if followed later by Governor Romney’s criticism of the President’s Middle East tour:

October 16 @1:12:05: The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.

October 22 @51:27: And then the president began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to — to various nations in the Middle East and — and criticizing America.

Later, we have President Obama positing greater efforts here at home:

October 16 @6:07: And let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America — roads, bridges, schools.

October 22 @1:29:08: But after a decade of war, I think we all recognize we got to do some nation building here at home, rebuilding our roads, (and) our bridges.

And finally we end with a comparison by Romney of the Greek and American financial crises:

October 16 @34:27: If the president were re-elected, we’d go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. This puts us on a road to Greece.

October 22 @1:30:20: One is a path represented by the president, which, at the end of four years, would mean we’d have $20 trillion in debt, heading towards Greece.

Two hours of discussion/blatant pivots later, I had to remind myself that I had, in fact, been watching a live news feed, and not just last week’s debate on DVR. This third and final debate served merely as a crash course on what the candidates think about, and have already told us about, their favorite and most inflammatory topics. It would have been helpful for undecided voters to glean new information but, if you haven’t had a chance to go back and watch the second presidential debate, no worries, just skip right over and watch the third. If you can tell the two apart.



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