Friday, September 26, 2008

Don't Debate. Think.

All of the hubbub about the possible postponement of today's presidential debate misses a simple point that the candidates are reluctant to admit.

Senator McCain can say that the debate should be postponed so he and Senator Obama can help work out a solution in Congress. Senator Obama can say that he's on call and that the debate should go on because it is important that the people should see them debate foreign policy.

I take a different tack: The debate should be postponed in order to give these two guys time to think.

"My God! How can that be?" cry the skeptics. "Can't they walk and chew gum at the same time?" The answer, of course, is "Sure, but they can't campaign and adequately sort through the ramifications of this incredibly complicated bail-out package at the same time. If I were advising a client who was facing a similar decision and yet had a packed schedule, my advice would be to carve out a sizable chunk of time to think things through. Yes, they have advisors, but those experts are probably divided and if they aren't then the circle of opinions needs to be widened. Furthermore, in a scenario like this one, few things are as informative as being there.

Is it possible that a president might confront more than one crisis at a time? Certainly, but that doesn't mean that he or she shouldn't devote as much time as possible to one when only one is on the table.

When a supporter of William Jennings Bryan boasted that his candidate made 100 speeches a day, a listener asked, "When does he think?"

This is a time when the candidates would be well advised to follow the mantra of "Fast is slow, slow is fast." This is a mega-decision. It deserves focus.

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