Election 2016 Round Table Discussion: Donald Trump has recently been under attack for open mic comments made in 2005. Hillary Clinton has been attacked for defending a rapist early in her law career and comments made in speeches to Wall Street firms. Does this really matter? Should the debates focus solely on policy issues rather than character issues? Would third party participation in the debates help to better manage the dialogue?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Character issues always matter when electing leaders, especially those in the federal government, but they are not as important as policy issues. The government is made up of humans who are fallible and have a wide variety of shortcomings. Character plays a role with voters because most voters at least subconsciously need to “like” a candidate enough to vote for that candidate. But voters should focus more on what policies the candidate will advocate for because those policies will more directly affect voters than will the fact that the person for whom they voted is a womanizer, or an alcoholic, or said some nasty things about someone years ago.

Unfortunately, modern mass media and instant worldwide communication have pushed character to the forefront of politics because of the constant need to attract viewers and listeners in the name of ratings and advertising dollars. The average voter seems to be more interested in the personal lives of candidates rather than their policies. If campaigns were only allowed to post printed statements about policy issues, and no video or audio recordings were allowed to get to voters, and no personal attacks could be made against one candidate by another, not even in print, then an election might possibly be decided based primarily on policy. Until that time, character will always be the lead story on any TV, radio, or internet news outlet since hints of scandal, lying, cheating, immorality, and other character issues will always trump a candidate’s tax policy stance.

Third party participation in debates will theoretically focus the discussion on policy issues, if only for the reason that each candidate will have less time to attack the character of two opponents without taking away time to promote their own policy positions. It is also likely that the Big Two parties will go overboard attacking the character of a third party candidate to call into question the legitimacy of that third party. One only need recall how Ross Perot was assaulted for his big ears, his voice, his stature, his choice of running mate, and the fact he had no political experience prior to running for president. Most voters who were around back in 1992 would be hard pressed to recall one or more of Perot’s positions on a major policy issue.

Yes, third parties should be included in debates, but it won’t change the fact that presidential elections have evolved—or devolved if you will—into beauty/popularity contests that overemphasize character.


Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-She says, he says. The truth is, we’ll all have strong opinions on current affairs. Hillary defended a rapist in her early law career – that pretty much shows the type of person she is. On the other hand, we have Donald Trump on open microphone in 2005 speaking degradingly and lewdly about a woman. Again, she says…he says. The above scenarios all show a lapse in judgment from both candidates. Ultimately, their remarks and actions reveal the sort of president citizens of America wish to be governed by. What happened with Donald and Hillary, are those mere occurrences? Better yet, do they matter? I think it does. America needs good governance. Not someone who’ll openly support rapists or debate and trash talk about women. These are all character issues and they matter a great deal. To focus solely on policy issues is to practically rule out common sense, morals, and values. We need values, not a president who judges or governs solely on written regulations and policies. Those change. Clearly, both candidates are loose cannons and need to keep their actions and speech in check. Could third parties assist in the debates? I think so. There need to be individuals to liaison – individuals who’ve not been compromised by greed and self interest.  

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-While The Donald’s lurid comments have grabbed far more headlines, Hillary Clinton’s track record of back-slapping Wall Street elites and changing her message to fit her audience disturb me far more when I think in terms of who I’d pick for my president.

Trump is a misogynist toad.  We know this.  He treats women like pieces of meat and has the morals of an alley cat. However, other than a chilly reception from Angela Merkel, I’m not sure how his exploits will affect his fitness as president.  After all, the man’s 70 years old…his tail-chasing days are narrowing down.

Clinton, on the other hand, puts forth a public face as a woman of the people, friend to the working man and champion of those who are victimized by the sort of predatory lending practices and deceptive account creations (I’m looking at you, Wells Fargo) that her Wall Street chums use as part of their profit planning.

While on the whole I’m not a fan of a person’s casual statements being used to tar and feather them, when those bon mots are dropped among certain audiences, or directly address the political issues to which they cleave, the rules change a bit.

All that being said, when it comes down to the voting booth, I’m more likely to look at the policy statements and plans laid out by a candidate than the collection of their past statements.  While I like what Trump’s had to say at times on the stump, his infuriating refusal to specify how he’ll make his plans happen makes the veins in my head throb.  He throws out grand promises and plans, but then when pressed on how he’ll pay for the initiatives or handle his foreign affairs moves, he drops an “I’ll handle it, don’t worry” or something similar.  I’m sorry, but I’m not going to trust the highest office in the land to a man who won’t give a straight answer.

Of course, Hillary dodges questions, too.  So what to do?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-What really matters concerning the comments made by Trump in 2005 as opposed to Hillary Clinton’s defense of a rapist is that her participation led to a public court case. The rapist was originally charged with first-degree rape with a possible life prison sentence. Instead, he served less than a year in a county jail for supposed unlawful fondling of a minor.

The rape victim in the case, Kathy Shelton, was belittled by Clinton and given no recourse as to the outcome of the trial. She has suffered from the effects of the rape and Hillary Clinton’s refusal to admit that her accusations and browbeating of the young girl were disparaging and false towards her. Shelton has suffered adverse effects ever since.  Donald Trump may have spoken in an off color and disrespectful manner, but he was not involved in any civil or criminal court case. He owned up to the comments and apologized to the American people. Hillary Clinton has failed to apologize for any of her indiscretions.

Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street firms and her comments concerning her close relationship with big banks that included supportive and favorable comments towards banks and financiers have proven where her loyalties lie. Her cavalier attitude towards the middle class demonstrates her real indifference towards everyday citizen voters and the problems that exist economically for a good portion of the country.  She avoids policy discussions with the voters and makes her nebulous comments to the financial giants.  She has both a public and private policy resonating and neither is for the good of the common man.

Hillary Clinton’s past words and actions do matter as they reflect that she has precious little policy making ability or enough common sense to know what a good or bad policy is and how others, the American people, are affected by it.

The debates should focus solely on policy issues as opposed to character issues but when character is in question, and the facts and evidence are in the public eye and point towards corruption and criminal activity, then somewhere in the debate process character issues are going to arise and should be exposed.  Voters should be made aware of faults that have led to disastrous decisions by a candidate and their outcomes.

Policy should be strongly pursued in the debates and each candidate should be responsible for presenting a policy platform that reflects what the American people are looking for and expecting.  Outlines and visuals should be directly presented in the debates so voters can view them in black and white. There should be no ability to gloss over or leave out what a candidate truly wants and desires to promote for the country and themselves.

In Donald Trump’s vision, his various policies reflect a return to economic stability, strong national security and defense, a strengthened military, immigration reform, and exposure of corruption, which is what a large majority of the public want to see in a candidate; whereas, Hillary Clinton is opposed to nationalism and what it can do for America. Her refusal to participate in true policy making is to the detriment of the American voter. She has no substance on which to defend or back her non-American policies, so she resorts to character assassination, distraction and diversion from the subject at hand.

Perhaps inclusion of third party participants in the debate process would expand the discussion and expose unfavorable or adverse policies that voters have been unable to identify with and understand over the course of the major party campaigns and earlier debates.

Elaboration on the positives and deficiencies in either policy platform would be of an advantage to those who are undecided as to what course of action the country should take. Possibly the dialogue could be better understood with others in the debate arena, but when dealing with candidates that have questionable past dealings, a penchant for lying, covering up,  and getting away with it on a regular basis, and obfuscating policy matters, it is  hard to predict a positive outcome no matter who is present on the debate stage.



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