Hofstra University, started during the Depression years in 1935 thanks to the generosity of the Hofstra family, is now the epicenter of a US Presidential election being watched by the whole world. People living in the Hempstead, Nassau County, Long Island, New York State, where Hofstra is located, will seek answers, under the leadership of TV personality Candy Crowley, from the two main contenders for the US Presidency – President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney.
David S. Mack, a 1967 graduate of the Hofstra School of Business, has helped Hofstra in the last 20 years get into the study of the US Presidency. Today 35 academic courses deal with the subject and the School hosts a Presidential debate for a second time – having hosted in rhe same location – The David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex – also the last 2008 Presidential Debate. Hofstra U. calls this year’s involvement – Pride, Politics & Policy, and has prepared more then 50 lectures and programs related to the subject.
The audience at the debate will be made up mainly of Hofstra U. students and 6,576 students entered a lottery to get a seat in the reorganized basket-ball arena.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan , 501(c)(3) corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 and now in 2012.
The Commission counts as its two parent organizations the Democratic Party and the Republican Party having thus closed the door to lesser parties. Also though over 100 TV outlets will be represented at this year’s debate, the organizers are yet weak in what concerns the internet audience and the media that represents them.
In our attempt to describe the goings-on at Hofstra on the eve of the debate, the Monday before the Tuesday October 16th, 2012 date, I will start from the 5:30 PM visit under CPD leadership to the arena.
About one third of the basket ball arena is being used for the purpose of the debate. A straight flat wall was built in the back of the two lecterns set up for the debaters who are facing a semicircular double row of chairs with a little table in the middle of these rows for the moderator – seasoned journalist and CNN anchor, Candy Crowley. In those two rows will sit the people whose questions were chosen as potential questions to the debaters.
Behind those two rows, at a distance, in the middle section there are six TV network areas, then on the sides there are two raised platforms with chairs for audience. Behind of all this there are remnants of the sports arena, a large section of the original balcony with further seats for the students.
The Gallup Organization was directed by the CPD to recruit via the telephone a sample of uncommitted voters from the area, to be part of the Town Hall panel for this debate. Gallup did a random sampling of all residents living in Nassau County that were asked about voting status and voting choice. Those chosen had to be uncommitted voters who either had no preference for a presidential candidate yet, or who have a preference but said that they are not committed yet and there was a chance they could vote for the other candidate. All had to be registered voters and said they plan to vote on November 6th. The screening was used using both – landline phones and cell phones as in all Gallup polls.
Candy Crowley is receiving a potential question from each one of the people chosen in the Gallup poll and it is her choice which of these questions to use and have those she chooses to ask the question themselves. The two parties, or anybody else, are not part of this process. The two candidates will then be given two minutes each to answer the question, and Ms. Crowley is then supposed to facilitate the debate between the two candidates. The people that asked the question have no right for follow ups, but obviously Ms. Crowley, after having chosen the question, will also have prepared to herself the potential follow ups and here we expect that like Ms. Martha Raddatz before her, though facing a totally different format in which she only chose the question but did not formalize it, nevertheless, she will be able to hold to account the candidate to answer the question in full and truthfully.
Outside the arena, in a nearby huge cavernous building, is situated the media filing room and in the farther half, next to the back exit is situated the “spin area” bracketed in the two corners, like in a boxing arena, the two party areas – naturally – the left corner for the Democrats and the Right corner for the Republicans.
When I visited the place before being taken to the tour of the arena, people were working on those corners. After the visit to the arena I rushed to a different event, but we will be back to these spinning corners later this evening.
The event I was rushing to was an event titled “AMERICA’S DEBT AND DEFICIT CRISIS: ISSUES AND SOLUTIONS WITH ALAN K. SIMPSON and ERSKINE BOWLES.”
Yes, these were the former Republican Senator from Wyoming, who by the way is also a member of the Board of the CPD, and the former Chief of Stuff for President Clinton’s White House. These two were commissioned by President Barack Obama to provide not just a by-partisan set of recommendations – but an AMERICAN set of recommendations as something that is above the politics – and they did – truly criticizing both sides in Congress and as I heard from them this evening an explanation how party politics – both parties – have caused this impasse out of the necessity of self preservation in their jobs of the legislators.
The University participant in the discussion was the Dean of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business, Prof. Patrick Socci whose expertise is in telecommunication and Finance.
The student body active in this event comes from “Red Ink Stinks” Fix the Debt www.fix the debt.org
Despite the party difference between the two they seem to speak in unison – they authored what Mr. Bowles called a 64 page proposal in simple English – for everybody to understand – that you can not continue to kick the can down he road. He suggested we see www.cankicksback.org - and we must bring in more revenue – otherwise we must make too deep cuts that the country cannot take. He said to this campus audience – that education will have to go out the window and that is not acceptable. Bowles was introduced as co-President at the time he was Chief of the Staff of the White House under President Clinton – as every Chief of Staff is perceived so. Bowles told then the following joke: BEING PRESIDENT IS LIKE BEING CEO OF A CEMETERY – THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE BENEATH YOU BUT NOBODY LISTENS.
Simpson -Bowles boils down to five principle reasons why we are having the problems we do have today and why there is no solution if we insist of doing business as usual. Today, all the revenue is used up to cover the interest on the debt and everything we are doing causes further debt – being thus done with borrowed money.
Bowles with his sense of humor reminded us that the US being obligated under treaty to guard Taiwan against China, it has to borrow money from China in order to do so.
This is the kind of questions that ought to be asked from the candidates in the Presidential debate.
The five principal reasons for the US spiraling into the abyss are:
(1) HEALTHCARE: We spend twice as much as any developed nation but we are only somewhere between 25 qns 50 when looking at achievements. We refuse to acknowledge that the 2 million people that have no official coverage get it in emergency rooms at our cost anyway.
(2) DEFENSE: We spend more then the next 17 counties combined and this includes Russia and China. Our military Chief of Staff said that our biggest security problem is the deficit.
(3) THE TAX CODE: We have the most inefficient code – this because of enormous spendings that are built into the tax code. Their recommendation is to do savings in this tax code and apply the money to reduce the deficit.
(4) SOCIAL SECURITY: It will go broke in 2031
(5) MONEY SPENT ON INTEREST: We just cannot grow ourselves out of this problem. Taxes alone will not do it. Cuts alone will not do it.
Also – Life expectancy is increasing and systems that were established under one set of conditions do not adjust to new set of conditions. For one thing – retirement age ought to be moved up to 67 years and then 68 years.
From this meeting I rushed back to the Media Centre to see what those boxing corners look like.
The Republican right corner was all cluttered with tricolor bows sprinkled with stars and huge placards.It has two lecterns with teleprompter glass in front of them. One said Relieve America with the Romney Ryan double R like in Rolls Royce.The general impression is of a MidWest country fair sales clutter. a MittRomney.com sign
The Democratic corner had a smaller FORWARD sign and a BarackObama.com address, a regular mike and several chairs. Is this just unfinished work or a sign that this White House does not believe in clutter?
Now, returning to pure campus activities this Monday – some of the special 50 educational activities here these last few weeks.
On On October the 15th there was a “STATE OF THE RACE” panel discussion with Meena Bose, director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for Presidential Studies; Larry Levy, executive director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra U.; and Richard Himelfarb, Professor of Political Science. This about Presidential Politics, Independent Voters and Impact of the Debates on the Voters.
Also, with Professor Diana Carlin, of the University of Kansas a Defense of the DEBATE SYSTEM.
On the lighter side – there were series of full day activities on Democracy in Performance -and in dance - drama events relating to historical people in historical events and some of this in dance and music. All this while classes were still gong on. Tomorrow Tuesday – on the Debate Day – there will be no classes.