After the first couple debates (including all the gross exaggerations, unrealistic promises, and run-of-the-mill venom therein), I started jotting down some things I wished to hear in a debate. Most of them have to do with just being refreshingly forthright and honest. Certainly feel free to comment if you have any more you'd like to hear:
- "On that issue, I basically agree with everything my opponent said. He summed it up pretty well so I won't waste anyone's time by needlessly talking any further."
- "It's good that you brought that up, because I shouldn't have said that. It was a mistake and I'll tell you why."
- "There's a simple explanation for the apparent inconsistency of my position: I've changed my mind. Every good leader changes his mind from time to time. I've changed mine and here's why."
- "I'm not going to promise that. Some - even most - things are out of my control. And while I can't promise that, I can commit to do my best."
- "My opponent is stronger or at least more knowledgable in that area than I am."
- "I won't pretend to know or understand every American's hurt."
- "It's possible for me to disagree with their decisions, their ideas, and their convictions without despising them. Just because I don't think everyone is doing what is best does not mean I don't want what is best for everyone."
- "There are some sacrifices we will need to make over the next 4 years that will likely affect each individual and the comforts to which he or she is accustomed."
- "There are a number of problems that neither government nor politicians can fix. That doesn't mean we don't care, it just means we are not gods nor should you expect us to be."
- "You raise a complex issue to which there is no clear-cut answer. I can understand why my opponent thinks the way he does, but let me try to explain the trade-offs and why I think my position makes more sense."
- "I don't know."
- "I do have weaknesses and more than just: I care too much." (Side note: Saw a debate a while back featuring three candidates who were asked: "What is a weakness of yours?" The first candidate refreshingly responded: "I'm not very strong at organization but, knowing that, I try to hire people who are." The next two candidates slammed him and proceeded to say their only weakness was "they care too much" and tend to, thus, get impatient when they can't enact positive change as quickly as they'd like...I proceeded to immediately gag.")
- ""I recognize that this is an unpopular position, but let me explain why I hold it."
- "That's what she said."
Ironically, should any of these ever be uttered, they would likely be viewed as "gaffes" for which the candidate would get utterly slammed by media, late-night comedians, etc.
For those interested in realism, my good friend and fellow pastor, Aaron Graham of District Church in Washington, D.C., put together a thoughtful, helpful, & very brief (only 4 points!) piece on how a Christian should engage with the political process.