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Thursday, December 18, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 20.0° F  
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Citizen Dave: Tammy and Tommy, Barack and Mitt, Joe and Paul -- Does it really have to be this bad?
What's missing from these debates is any sense of the fun of politics.
What's missing from these debates is any sense of the fun of politics.
Credit:Wisconsin Public Television

God, this is just awful. Make it stop.

Overall, just like last time, in my view, Tammy Baldwin beat Tommy Thompson hands down in tonight's debate. She speaks in complete English sentences. She is even-tempered and dignified, something we need a lot more of these days in politics. It's not just that I like her politics; I like her. But debating is not her strong suit.

As for Tommy, he came off like a blustering bully, not the happy warrior he used to be. He kept referring to Tammy Baldwin as "she." "Representative Baldwin' would have been nice. I thought Joe Biden deserved the higher negatives he got after his obnoxious performance against Paul Ryan. Tommy makes Joe look like Gandhi.

But what were they thinking with this format? The forum sponsors knew they had one candidate who is inarticulate and another who is understated. Why would they give them six painful minutes to have a series of awkward "conversations" about various issues?

Moreover, the trend started by the vice presidential candidates and continued by Obama and Romney last week of arguing over one another has been extended, as I feared it would, to this debate. This is the new standard of "debate." It's a shouting match.

Frankly, I'm debated out. I can barely stand to watch this stuff. And I actually like politics.

What's missing from these debates is any sense of the fun of politics, the clash of ideas, the mixing it up with your opponent over honest disagreement on the issues. The jab followed by a gleam in one candidate's eye as if to say, I can take as good as I get, so give me your best shot. A debate between intelligent people who have a sense of humor and love the fight can be enlightening and even entertaining.

We don't have to hate each other when we disagree about issues.

Maybe it's the bad chemistry between these three pairs of opponents, or maybe it's the extreme polarization of American politics today. Whatever it is, it's leading me to question whether debates are really a useful way to vet candidates. More fundamentally, it makes me wonder about the state of American politics and our ability to solve problems.

If those seeking the highest offices in the nation can't find any sense of comity between them, what are the chances for any kind of progress?

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