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The Presidential Debates

And What They Should Be

By Oliver DeMille

People are getting tired of the presidential election.

It’s too much bad news, week and after week, too many talking heads just saying the same old negative things about the other side, and too many mistakes, gaffes and 10-second clips getting blown way out of proportion.

But all of that is just the way politics works, and people are used to it.

The really frustrating thing in the 2012 presidential election is that neither of the two big candidates has given us a clear, inspiring plan for the next four years.

Both point out flaws of their opponent, and both try to explain away their own unfavorables, but neither have just looked the American people in the eyes and told us what they will do for us if elected.

David Brooks of The New York Times is right that Romney could totally sway this election if he would just ignore the fluff, turn wonky, and outline three or four main things he’s going to do in the next four years.

Romney spent his business life successfully using power point presentations and clear plans to turn things around; the United States needs the same thing right now.

“My fellow Americans,” he should begin the debate. “I’m not going to spend our time tonight talking about every issue under the sun, or answering every question the media thinks is important. We’ve been doing that for years, and it hasn’t gotten us where we want to be.

“What America needs now is leadership. There are four issues that will determine whether the next four years are a time of success and a return to prosperity, or a time of decline. It’s time for our leaders to tell us the truth: if we fix these four things, our future will be bright. If not, it won’t.

“So, others can talk about whatever they want, but I’m going to focus only on these four things that will make all the difference in America’s future. If you don’t like that, elect someone else. If you elect me, I’m going to fix four things. Here they are:

#1 jobs

#2 health care

#3 the economy (including entitlements, the national debt, government
spending, deficits and our credit rating)

#4 oil dependency

“So, for you who are asking the questions tonight, if you ask about how we’ll fix these things, I’ll tell you. If you ask me anything else, I’ll tell you my entire presidency is going to focus on these four things. Period. That’s what we need our leaders to do, and that’s what I’m going to do. The only other thing I’m going to focus on is to maintain a strong national defense.

“That’s what my presidency will be, a strong national defense and fixing these four things. That’s what America needs for the next four years, and as president I will make sure these four problems get fixed.

“I have a full written plan on how to accomplish each of these 4 priorities, and it has just been posted to my website in the last minute since I started speaking. I hope every American will read it. And in the days and weeks ahead I’m going to clearly explain this plan in every speech I give and every question I answer.

“If any of the media want to ask questions about the plan, I’ll answer them. If any citizens have questions, my website has a place to send questions and my team and I will answer every single question you send.

“I want every American to clearly understand exactly how we’ll fix these four problems, and to ask every question anyone has until we all fully understand the plan. Then you can decide whether to vote for me, based on a clear knowledge of what I will do in the next four years as your president.

“Because if I’m elected, I’m going to fix these four things. Nothing will distract me from these four priorities, because these are the greatest challenges for our nation right now and only by overcoming them can America truly be the great nation we should be.”

Then he should stick to his guns and only, only, answer questions about national defense and fixing these four things.

He should constantly refer to his plan, he should know his plan so well that he can refer to it in detail and answer every question, and Paul Ryan should do the same.

He should have the plan outlined in simple words in a short power point presentation on his website, and he should have a longer power point for those who want more details.

He should provide the full plan written out, word for word, and available for every person who wants to read it.

He should print his plan with an engaging cover and mail it to every home in the United States.

He should sell it in the bookstores, and have volunteers give it away to their friends.

He should talk about nothing but the plan, and he should refer to the plan in every setting and spread it far and wide.

He should buy prime time specials on television and give the power point and answer questions on live tv.

Frankly, Ron Paul should do exactly the same thing.

And if Romney doesn’t do it, President Obama should do it. In fact, if Romney does it President Obama should do it too.

Imagine a debate where both candidates are passionately dedicated to fixing these four things, and the question just becomes which plan we as voters think is best.

For once, we’d have a really excellent election.

Note that President Obama hasn’t given us a plan for the next four years any more than Governor Romney has.

They have both talked about dozens of issues and concerns, but neither has taken a stand about the future of American greatness, how they will fix the economy, or any other clear plan for the next four years.

We are left to vote on personality, ideology, lack of mistakes, partisan trust, or our general sense of who will do best.

But we should be choosing between specific plans, voting on the one we think will be best for our nation.

Besides, presenting and sticking to such a plan would just be good politics!

Tell us what you’re going to do, have an excellent plan for backing it up, and hold the nation to account: “I promise you this,” he should say. “If you elect me, four years from now these four things will be fixed. The biggest challenges of our nation will be met and overcome. And America will be great again. It will be like the difference that happened when Reagan beat Carter.

“On the other hand, if you elect Mr. Obama, four years from now you will still be struggling with all four of these problems. The debt will be bigger, our credit rating will most likely be further downgraded, we will be spending and borrowing even more, and the deficits will be bigger. Most importantly, unemployment will still be high and too many families will still be without jobs.

“In addition, if you elect Mr. Obama, the health care law will increase taxes and spread even more government regulations that hurt the economy. And entitlements will be bankrupting us by 2016.

“Four years from now, we will either live in an America where these things are fixed, or in an America where these problems are just as bad or worse. It’s up to you as voters. If you want a president who will fix these four things, you know what to do. My name is Mitt Romney, and I’m running for president of the United States in order to fix these four things!”

This election is still up for grabs.

Imagine the power of the following speech to sum up the debate: “My name is Barack Obama, and I’m running for president in order to fix these four problems, the four greatest challenges America will face the next four years. If you elect me, I’ll fix all four: #1 jobs, #2 healthcare, #3 the national debt and deficit, and #4 our oil dependency. These four things will be the focus of my entire presidency. If you want these things fixed by the time of the next election, vote for me.”

This is winning politics, whoever uses it.

Alas, I fear the debates will be far less entertaining.

Or, in other words, in four years these four serious problems—along with China—will probably still be America’s biggest challenges.


odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.


  1. Mitt Romney is so clear and correct in his commnets as to what the founders of our Nation intended regarding the religious faith of potential leaders, that it becomes obvious where real bigotry exists. Introducing fundatmental error or as stated the Religion Question into the National Debate is a serious flaw promulgated by the Perry Campaign and will backfire against him. He should bow out now and save the multi-millions of dollars he will spend needlessly trying to destroy Romney and in essence, our Nation’s dwindling hope for salvaging the Constitution being relentlessly destroyed by Obama’s transformation of America into a socialistic state. Last night’s debate left no doubt as to Romney’s ability to answer the numerous attacks, petty as they really are, in a reasoned manner. While we can all realize that small things mean a lot, when contrasting Romney’s miniscule so-called faults against the huge issues facing us for which Romney is eminently qualified to handle, the attacks are infantile and superficial. It is my hope that the harrange and attention on the thin things of virtually no major importance leveled against him will not distract the great body of Americans from realizing he is the most competent and best qualified to confront the thick things of monumental importance our Nation is facing and will continue to face in the immediately near future.


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