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October 10, 2012

Dialogue on the Presidential Election

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Recently, political science professor Dr. Herb Smith, the McDaniel College director of government relations, brought together a distinguished panel at the college in Westminster for a local “Dialogue on the Presidential Election.”


Just as early voting has begun in many states, and the date of the traditional fall general election is within weeks, now is the time that our country turns to the podium and stage for the debate edition of presidential reality theatre.


Many have been surprised that the Republican presidential challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, did as well as he did during the first presidential debate in Denver on October 3.


Writing for The Slatest, Josh Voorhees penned on Monday, “Was Romney's Debate Win the Most Convincing in History? It Looks That Way.” According to Mr. Voorhees, “Gallup's latest survey shows just how overwhelmingly the American public thought Mr. Romney bested President Obama onstage in Denver last Wednesday: 72 percent of debate watchers gave the win to the GOP challenger with only 20 percent seeing the president as the winner. That 52-point gap was the largest the polling outfit has ever seen, topping even Bill Clinton's 42-point margin over George H. W. Bush in 1992…”


For those who missed the debate, it is also a great read. The transcript of “President Obama and Mitt Romney’s remarks at the first presidential debate …,” has been published by The Washington Post.


For a concise and insightful commentary on the debate by writer, former Maryland State Del. Rick Weldon, read, “A Slam-Dunk Election Snapshot.” “Employing language familiar to basketball fans, the first presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle resulted in a slam dunk for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney,” says Delegate Weldon.


Of course, it was Thomas “Tip” O'Neill, the legendary Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who coined the phrase “All politics is local,” from his experience running for a seat in the Cambridge (MA) city council in the early 1930s.


With that in mind, on October 2, the day before the much-ballyhooed presidential debate, I particularly enjoyed the “Dialogue on Presidential Election” debate forum at McDaniel College.


The event brought together my friends, Maryland Del. Samuel (Sandy) Rosenberg (D) and Harford County Executive David Craig (R) for a discussion moderated by McDaniel President Roger Casey.


Instead of an audience of 70 million, about 125 students gathered at the Decker Center Forum on the college campus. There they were a witness to history as County Executive Craig and Delegate Rosenberg answered questions and provided thoughtful insights into the many complicated issues that are part of the difficult matrix that must be negotiated before one makes a decision as to how to mark his or her ballot November 6.


For an hour and a half, Mr. Craig and Mr. Rosenberg discussed 16 questions from panelists that included McDaniel faculty members, Dr. Julie Routzahn, an economics and business administration professor. and Dr. Debora Johnson-Ross, a political science professor.


Also on the panel were Maryland Public Television’s Jeff Salkin, and my former editor, Jim Lee, who served at the helm of the Carroll County Times for 15-years.


Topics included the national debt, unemployment, and adding job opportunities. The rising costs of health care and home ownership costs were explored. Voter ID, the lack of a bi-partisan approach to our nation’s challenges and an exploration of the current toxic political environment were discussed.


The rising cost of a college education, campaign finance reform, educational opportunities for undocumented aliens, and a compare-and-contrast of RomneyCare and ObamaCare and other challenges in health care were also debated.


The question, “with hope and change in tatters,” why should we give President Obama another four years to try and get it right was raised.


At one point Delegate Rosenberg waxed poetic that if Republicans are returned to power, abortion, and reproductive health care will be criminalized.


In addition Delegate Rosenberg asserted that the American Union movement is important to our nation’s financial recovery, as well as additional economic stimulus. It was explained, in so many words, that the fate of an economic recovery can be found by the government borrowing money from China and spending it on green jobs and initiatives.


Executive Craig, long considered to be a gubernatorial candidate in 2014, challenged that there is a difference between what are our “needs” and what are our “wants.”


He further emphasized a good education; training – and retaining – is the keys to addressing joblessness and that the economic recovery needs to be funded by the private sector and not the government.


Delegate Rosenberg challenged the audience to understand that the country is better off today than it was four years ago. That, in the upcoming election, “we can go backwards with the Republicans” that got us into the economic mess President Obama inherited from eight years of the administration of President George W. Bush; or we can go forward with President Obama.


Mr. Craig explained that both President Obama and Governor Romney “are good people.” He stressed a bi-partisan approach to “go around the barn on opposite sides and get to the same point” to find solutions to our country’s challenges.


He reiterated, in so many words, that after four years, it may be considered inappropriate to point fingers at the previous administration as an exculpatory explanation for a feckless term in the Oval Office.


Executive Craig emphasized the importance of voting, and that the most important point of the discussions that evening was that it was “most important to vote.”


On that point I hope we all agree. This election, go out of your way to get out and vote. Too many brave Americans gave their lives for you and me to have the opportunity to debate and disagree.


Get out and vote.


. . . . .I’m just saying. . . . . .


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