Monday, October 24, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life - 51 ( The third debate in Las Vegas)

Jottings : Slice of life - 51
In this 57th Presidential campaign, the third debate held this week in Las Vegas provided a glimpse , perhaps for the first time, into where both the candidates stood in terms of their intellectual and professional calibre to assume the chair of Presidency. In the year long fiasco in the name of election campaign, the empty and vituperative mud slinging, the sheer lack of substance to any of the core issues Presidents are expected to debate; it took this third and final debate, finally, and much to my relief and to millions of others I would presume, to provide a realistic assessment about whom they should be electing. Not that either of them came out as strong winners, but having them spell out and respond to a key questions spontaneously ( at least we are told it is spontaneous) juxtaposed the intellectual apparatus needed to drive the most powerful, complete democracy in the world. While one reacted with grimaces, guffaws and lack of depth in his answers, the other was the studied lawyer, senator who visibly manufactured her orations from notes in front of her. While one had puerile fantasies of how American society should be with Walls and nuclear power and might, the other occupied the typically ambiguous position a politician would take when faced with real decisions. While one proved time and time again that he is a better business man than a politician and the only weapon he possesses is his unabashed advocacy of American power and supremacy, the other realized the role this country plays in the Global landscape and structured her answers to weave a web of concern, empathy and acceptance; while one was trying hard not to sweat profusely when asked to present a clear vision on pointed questions, the other bought in the experience 30 years of political life could bear to keep her composure, bearing and tone balanced, and her answers ambiguous. In all, this debate clearly demonstrated the choice American public have. If it was uncertain till the week before, they have their answer now.
To me, this seminal debate was made productive, meaningful and worthy of listening only due to masterly performance of Chris Wallace, the moderator of the event. I dont care which Newspaper he represents, or what are his political leanings. On the stage , he was commissioned to play a role, and by God, he played it to perfection. It is not easy, when the entire world is watching with avid interest, many laughing at what we made of this glorious tradition; and then to step in with authority, wisdom and consummate ease to pull conflicting ideologues together and moderate a coherent debate between two complete diametrical personalities. It is not at all easy. After all, for one last time in this election, the world gets to see and hear what the future America President would look like, how they plan to steer this nation, and more importantly do they have stature and calibre enough to stand up to public scrutiny and approval. Hence it was important to keep a tight leash on proceedings. And Chris was on spot from the moment the Camera turned towards him at 18.00 EST with his short, confident welcome, and quick relaxed introductions. It was clear he meant business and he knew he needed to salvage the lost pride in venerable institution of Presidential debates. In a packed 90 minute engagement, never once did he pander to either one of his participants. His questions were ordered and sequenced brilliantly to ensure the debate was never derailed. Even when he wanted to solicit personal comments on personal issues, he did so at his own pace, time and manner. His research was precise, never intrusive and always shedding light on the question as well as the answers. Moderating a debate is an art. No many can do it. It needs deep understanding of participant's psych and how they would respond to leading questions. Chris, no doubt is a senior correspondent and news anchor, and knew his trade and its rules well; but even then, it needed his utmost care and poise to make sure in the glare of those ninety minutes, both nominees got equal attention, applauses and boo’s, along with eliciting their sincere positions on important issues in this election. It was a master act that redeemed my faith in this great tradition of national debates. Well done Chris Wallace!!.
In the 1940’s, during Roosevelt’s time, there was an unique opportunity for US-China reconciliation. General Mao invited himself to the US to meet the President. He wished to impress upon US policy makers how enamored he was with American Institutions and their fight for freedom and liberty. He believed that US and communist China weren't at loggerheads, and both countries could borrow, learn and nourish each other amicably. But for reasons beyond the scope of this essay, this meeting never happened; and an irrevocable opportunity was lost to bring the two nations together. For a fuller, and more popular account of this event, I request you to read Barbara Tuchman’s account in her collection of essays titled “Practicing History”. Why am I remembering this incident here? The answer lies in the fact that during the course of this last debate, Both Trump and Hillary referred to China as a threat at least a dozen times under various guises. If I were watching this debate as a Chinese citizen or its Government representative, I would be very proud of myself. That an American election depends so much on curtailing my growth, my increasing omniscience, my greater economic pressure; and depends less on correcting or resuscitating their own institutions and growth, only goes to prove that China has arrived well and truly on the international stage. Trillions of dollars in debt, nearly all manufacturing outsourced, more importantly increasing control of raw material supplies into US, and forming a powerful axis in Asia along with Russia and others - makes the future of US almost completely at the mercy of others. The belief that only democracy and democratic institutions can lead to growth is a lop sided view of History and current affairs. A communist China seems more focussed and clear than many democracies are. Its another issue whether its citizens are happy, see opportunity and have freedom. But if there is one lesson that History has consistently taught and frequently emphasized - it is that nations which do not grow economically, cannot provide secure jobs and live more out of Imports than on exports - will decline. Balance of power will shift and a time will come when the very value system we wish to protect will become barriers to growth and stability. Both Trump and Hillary are acutely aware of this condition. At least in this, they seem to be in agreement.
Finally, Despite all that has happened in this election, I think America still is a triumph of highest Democratic values. In no other nation will an election process happen with so much involvement, debate, fun, seriousness, intellectualism or the lack of it, and so much national participation and international scrutiny. It is truly a spectacular process. We will know its end in less than month. But whatever it is, the next four years will remain one of the most important in the history of this greatest experiment in Human civilization.
God bless..
Yours in mortality,
Bala

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