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Saturday, December 01, 2007

I Hate the Debates QUESTIONS

I've watched none of the debates, Democratic or Republican, in 2007. The problem is that they're not debates as I understand the term.
Then there's this October 31 post from GovTrack.US called "Debates giving time based on poll numbers?"
The New York Times has an interesting flash application that breaks down the text of yesterday’s Democratic debate (there was a debate?) by speaker and shows visually the distribution of who spoken when through the debate. They took the transcript, made it visual and interactive, and the end result is a vastly different view onto the debate than anyone had before.

One can’t help but notice that the different candidates are not getting the same amount of speaking time. Clinton spoke more than 3.5 times more words, and the same for speaking time, than Biden. For that matter, basically so did the moderator, who held the floor for more time than anyone but Clinton. It’s no wonder that Clinton is considered “the Democrat to beat” considering she’s in our face more.

If the numbers weren’t so vastly different between the candidates, we’d chalk it up to some random variation that happens from debate to debate. But, from the numbers, the speaking times are clearly planned. It’s so clear that I feel like maybe I missed something. Is it common knowledge that the debates are proportioning time out to the candidates based on their poll numbers (or something equivalent)? It’s not just that the front-runners are getting more time. The statistical correlation is ridiculously high (speaking time versus FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. Oct. 23-24: r=.96). That is, the debate organizers are basically using this formula to determine how much time each candidate should get:
Speaking Time = 8:26 minutes + 25 seconds * Latest Poll Number (%)

Of course, debate organizers can’t control exactly how long each candidate talks for, but the candidates only deviated from the formula by at most two minutes and twenty seconds (Biden, who spoke less, and Edwards, who spoke more).

1) Are you watching the debates? If so, who's impressed you, depressed you? If not, why not? Not interested in politics? It's too early to pay attention? The "debate" format?

There was a question about the Bible at the last Republican go-round:

Joseph: I am Joseph. I am from Dallas, Texas, and how you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?
Anderson Cooper: I think we've got a question. Mayor Giuliani?
Huckabee: Do I need to help you out, Mayor, on this one?
Rudolph Giuliani: Wait a second, you're the minister. You're going to help me out on this one.
Mike Huckabee: I'm trying to help you out.
Giuliani: OK. The reality is, I believe it, but I don't believe it's necessarily literally true in every single respect. I think there are parts of the Bible that are interpretive. I think there are parts of the Bible that are allegorical. I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be interpreted in a modern context.
So, yes, I believe it. I think it's the great book ever written. I read it frequently. I read it very frequently when I've gone through the bigger crises in my life, and I find great wisdom in it, and it does define to a very large extent my faith. But I don't believe every single thing in the literal sense of Jonah being in the belly of the whale, or, you know, there are some things in it that I think were put there as allegorical.
Cooper: Governor Romney?
Mitt Romney: I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. And I try...
... I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it's a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible.
Cooper: Does that mean you believe every word?
Romney: You know -- yes, I believe it's the word of God, the Bible is the word of God.
The Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don't disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.
Cooper: Governor Huckabee?
Huckabee: Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It's the word of revelation to us from God himself.
And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don't believe it. But in the greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says "Go and pluck out your eye," well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.
But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. "Love your neighbor as yourself."
And as much as you've done it to the least of these brethren, you've done it unto me. Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.
And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small.

I agree with the allegory references by Rudy and Mike, and Huckabee's suggestion of the difficulty of understanding the Bible. But the idea that "Love your neighbor as yourself" is simple and really easy, I don't buy; maybe it is in concept, but not so much in execution.

That leads to:
2) Do you think the question about belief in the Bible is an appropriate one in a pluralistic society for a Presidential debate? Recent episodes of Doonesbury suggest that an atheist would have a very hard time getting elected, although previous Presidents have given only lip service, at best, to the faith - do you agree with that assessment?

3) How would you answer the question about belief in the Bible?
A recommended website: Open


1 comment:

Greg said...

As you can probably guess, I don't think the question has any place in a debate over politics. Plus, as you know, my theory is that if you believe "every word" of the Bible, you can't be in politics, as much of politics is antithetical to the Bible's teachings. So Guiliani probably had the best answer, but he's still full of it because he doesn't live anywhere near how the Bible tells people to live.

I'd answer the question honestly, which is that I don't believe in God, which would automatically disqualify me from ever attaining the presidency. Hence the bloodless coup I'm planning!