When is a candidates debate not a debate?
When it is a thinly-veiled campaign rally, as was the case with the so-called “debates” staged by GOP candidate Art Robinson this week in Curry County.
Robinson advertised these rallies as “debates” on his website and in this newspaper (Page 3B, Aug. 28), knowing full well that his opponent, Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio, was doing his job in Washington D.C. and couldn’t be there.
This isn’t the first time Robinson has done this. He scheduled the same one-sided debates in Eugene and Roseburg in August, according to reports by The News-Review newspaper in Roseburg.
Robinson went so far as to say that if DeFazio didn’t show up, he might provide a surrogate (we’re guessing someone from Robinson’s political camp) to provide DeFazio’s views. He also employed supporters to dress up as chickens at several of his rallies, presumably to emphasize his message that DeFazio is afraid to debate him.
The whole thing is a political attempt to make DeFazio look bad – not through issues or philosophies, but by using bait and switch. It’s an old political tactic; one that doesn’t belong in today’s politics. It should be viewed for what it truly is: disappointing.
At issue between the two opponents is how each prefers to debate. Robinson wants to debate DeFazio head-to-head at the dates and times of his choosing. DeFazio prefers to meet Robinson at established candidate forums organized by third parties, such as the League of Women Voters and League of Oregon Cities.
Robinson says his format would allow audience members to ask questions of both candidates, and not just listen to campaign speeches. He has a point.
We suggest that both candidates step out of their comfort zones and agree to debate one another at least once in each format, leaving plenty of time for audience participation.
If these two politicians can’t find a way to speak to one another, how can they hope to speak to and for the people?