Debating the facts

The 2nd presidential debate between Mr Romney and Mr Obama comes to a close. The only conclusion I see is that the two men debated reality. “No, that’s just not true.” One example of this, among many, is their debate over the production of oil and natural gas. In a comedy that appeared scripted, Romney claimed that production was down at precisely the same time Obama claimed production was up. (NBC fact-checkers claim Obama is closer to the truth on this issue. Meh.)

If their realities differ, how can I be sure that either of theirs match with mine? Do I need to fact-check all of their statements? Can I trust either man to fact-check themselves when the spotlight is no longer on them?

Or is it instead that perhaps all of our realities match, but each man purposely spins the truth until reality is barely recognizable? In effect, are they lying?

Either way, I am left to wonder who, if anyone, is correct. Is there a third option? Neither of the above seems appealing in a leader. Can we debate the merits of positions without referencing facts? Perhaps, but perhaps not. If facts are necessary, then maybe a verbal debate is no longer relevant. In a verbal debate, there is no chance to fact-check while debating; if facts disagree, then each side claims the other is simply wrong.

This does not make for a pleasant debate. How can we remedy this? A suggestion: instead of a verbal debate, could we adopt a text-based internet-available debate?

In this structure, we could employ the candidates alone or with small hand-picked teams to write responses to presented questions in a setting where they could cite sources for the public to fact check for themselves. I, at least, would like to judge for myself the validity of their information, since they have proven to me that I cannot trust their honesty and judgement alone.


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