I must be going soft in the head from too much politics, but instead of dwelling on my reaction to the debate last night (by the way, I agree with the conventional wisdom: best of the three debates but not that great, not a game-changer, best moderator, and I’m sure this business of showing close ups of both candidates so we can analyze which one had a creepier facial expression while listening to the other is a great step forward for democracy) I decided to write the answer that I wish either of the candidates, or preferably both, had given when Bob Schieffer asked:
Schieffer: Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other’s face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?
Answer I wish I had heard: Senator, Bob Schieffer just asked us each of us if we’re each willing to say to the other’s face the negative things have been in some of the ads our campaigns have aired. Well I don’t want to do that.
As the law now requires us to admit, I approved those messages, but I don’t feel great about them. I stand behind my ads in a technical sense and I certainly take responsibility for them.
If necessary, I can explain the point of each of them, but I wouldn’t want to test the patience of the citizens who have tuned in tonight by parsing with you the details of the votes or the statements or the associations that our respective opposition research teams have come up with so we could attack each other.
The truth is I regret the political culture that gives rise to those kinds of ads which, let’s face it, are full of half-truths, exaggerations and votes and statements taken out of context by each of us to make the other one look as bad as possible.
Senator, I would like to take this occasion to say publicly that I respect you and I admire many things about you. We disagree on a great many issues and I wouldn’t be running for president if I didn’t think my policies and my leadership would be better for the country. But I’m sure you feel the same way about your leadership. So we’ll have to let the voters decide which of us they agree with on that.
But I don’t for a second doubt that you want what’s best for this country and its future. If you win the election 20 short days from today, I’ll be in the Senate during your term in the White House. I’ll work with you wherever we find we have goals in common. And when I feel I have to work against your initiatives because of our policy differences, I will try to make sure I do it in a civil, substantive, respectful way.
I make that pledge to you tonight without asking you to make it in return, but I sure hope you will, because our country has had enough of the political of mutual assured destruction.
So Bob, please ask me a policy question instead, and I will attempt to explain why I think my ideas are better than the proposals of my esteemed friend and colleague.