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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Bomb on the Metrojet, "Non-Debates" and The Twelfth Amendment


When is a Debate Not a Debate?

Traditionally, “debates” have consisted of arguments on specific proposals presented by a “pro” side and by a “con” side, followed by rebuttals by each side to the others' arguments, and finally, a summing up by each side in which the rebuttal may be answered or some final argument given, all of these segments being timed.  Judges then render a decision as to who won the debate.  An example of a debate topic might be “Resolved that term limits be imposed on Members of the House of Representatives.” 

The television programs which are billed as political debates are not debates at all.  They are forums during which the participants are asked questions.  Without real disagreement in regard to a particular topic or question, those seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency, have little about which to “debate.”   The Democratic Party’s “debates” do include a greater difference of opinion among the candidates but still, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are not actually debating with one another about topics on which they might disagree, such as gun control, foreign trade and health care.  They are stating their positions and leaving it at that.


When the Presidential candidates are ultimately chosen, it would be excellent if they would actually “debate” with one another.  If one candidate wants the Affordable Care Act or the North American Free Trade Agreement repealed, or the Rowe vs. Wade or Citizens United decision reversed, he or she should state all of their arguments for doing so followed by the other candidate stating all of his or her arguments for not repealing these laws or reversing the Court’s decision regarding abortion or political contributions. (Who speaks first would be decided by a coin toss, and of course, only one item would be the subject of the debate.)

Then each would have an opportunity to present their rebuttals.  Merely presenting a difference of opinion by the two candidates is not a “debate.”  It is a forum, where they are asked questions, discuss issues, but not formally argue them, so it should not be called a debate. I suspect that neither major party candidate would actually prefer a true "debate."  But we should not be identifying the "forums" we now have as "debates."  That they are not.
Jack Lippman
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Why the Twelfth Amendment?

And speaking of “debates” or “forums” or whatever you want to call them, Rachel Maddow asked Hillary Clinton an interesting question during last week’s Democratic candidate forum in South Carolina.  She asked Clinton which one of the many Republican contenders for that party’s nomination she would consider naming as her Vice-Presidential running mate, if she had to.  Secretary Clinton declined to name one, indicating that if she did so, it would be to that person’s great disadvantage in the G.O.P.’s contest for the nomination, a “Clinton endorsement” being the last thing a conservative Republican would want.

Nevertheless, the idea of the President and the Vice-President being from different parties is an interesting one.  In fact, that was the way it was when the country started.  Although political parties had not yet been formed (and George Washington had cautioned against even having them), there were distinct differences between public figures in those days.  Washington, an aristocratic Virginia planter, had John Adams, a Massachusetts lawyer, as his Vice President.  If there had been organized parties then, they would have been in different ones. 

After Washington's terms as President, the provisions of the Constitution came into play whereby the candidate who came in second in the voting of the Electoral College would automatically become the Vice President.

Hence, our second President, John Adams (a believer in a strong central government), was stuck with Thomas Jefferson (a believer in states’ rights) as his Vice-President.  When Jefferson became President, he was stuck with the Presidential loser, Aaron Burr, another believer in a strong central government, as his Vice President.  Jefferson and Burr actually were tied in the Electoral College with the House of Representatives deciding the issue in favor of Jefferson. (Burr’s killing of Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1803 is said to have resulted from bad feelings between the two men, which may have stemmed from Hamilton’s role in the House of Representatives deciding the election in favor of Jefferson.)

To remedy this problem, the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution was written, so that the Electoral College voted for both a President and for a Vice President.  And ever since 1804, it has been that way.  But if Hillary Clinton had been running against a Republican candidate in 1800, and had won, she would have been stuck with that Republican as her Vice President.  So Maddow’s question wasn’t entirely nonsensical, only 212 years too late to be pertinent.