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I missed the first US presidential debate last week where it was roundly concluded that the Republican hopeful, Mitt Romney had come out on top of President Obama, gaining the former the momentum in his campaign to capture the White House. I cannot imagine Obama to have performed badly being an accomplished speaker throughout those four years that he has been the Commander-in-chief of the World’s great power.

And so I made sure I sit down to watch the second debate on 17 October (Malaysian time). And what an Obama it was! It was a stellar performance by the President.

US Presidential candidates, Republican Romney (L) and Democrat Obama squaring off at the 2nd debate on 16 Oct 2012 (CNN)
…. can we see Najib and Anwar doing this?

Cool,collected,impressive,passionate,engaging and confident are some of the descriptions I would come out with. Obama’s ability to grab and sustain the audience’s attention and capitalise on the opponent’s flaws is exceptional. His debate’s techniques of prioritising important issues right at the beginning and using the words of Mitt Romney against himself prove to be winners.

I cannot wait for the third and final debate where each candidate will face each other, having learnt their lessons in the last two encounters and ready to do battle again. The debate will be crucial to both and an American choice will definitely have wide ranging effects on global politics. The world would have been different today had Democrat Al Gore been elected as President instead of the warring Republican Bush in the year 2000.

To Americans, these presidential debates are essential in their democratic process. These are the times when they witness first hands how the candidates handle questions and operate in both verbal and non-verbal dimensions. The candidate’s character,knowledgability, focus and political commitment can, to a certain extent, be evaluated when they speak or respond off the cuff on a variety of issues. In the second debate it was on issues such as healthcare,women,immigration, taxes and jobs creation.

Watching the two men debating intensely makes me wonder why the same cannot be done in our country. Here in Malaysia, we often witness a politician debating with himself and speak emotionally to a captured audience who silently sit or stand and are expected to just accept whatever being dished out to them. And it is also not in our culture to be confrontational and as such not many politicians/non-politicians fancy indulging in exchanges and rebuttals in such an open public debate.

People who are not able to articulate well,have differences in their public and private persona or belief (confused/fuzzy state of mind), emotional and are not trained to argue on facts will feel insecure to participate in open debates. I suspect many Malaysians fall into this category.In addition, there are just too many sensitive and taboo issues in this country that a debate cannot be expected to show the leader for what he really is.


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