Mitt Romney

Kathleen Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses political advertising at the Belo Center for New Media on Monday afternoon. Jamieson, a former professor at UT, recently won the DeWitt Carter Reddick award for excellence in the field of communication. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Kathleen Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said political advertising is warping the way politicians make decisions.

“We are now affecting governance without having a policy debate about the underlying information,” Jamieson said in a lecture on Monday, which was sponsored by the College of Communication.

Jamieson, who has spent years studying the subject and who recently won the DeWitt Carter Reddick Award for excellence in the field of communication, said politicians are making important national decisions based on sound bites. She pointed to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s campaign, in which he attacked proposed “welfare work waivers” for stripping the federal work requirement from welfare, supposedly turning it into a free ride for recipients. In fact, she said, the waivers were only requested by Republican governors, because they could then implement other work requirements of their own.

“Here’s the rationale: States are different ... you might in those circumstances administer differently,” Jamieson said. “You might have different populations.”

These, Jamieson said, were the programs President Obama granted welfare work waivers to. However, explaining this to voters takes too long, she said.

“Imagine we’re Republican governors who just wanted the waiver,” Jamieson said. “[Republicans will say] I don’t want the waiver ... because I don’t want this ad from the Democrats next time I’m running for governor.”

Jamieson said this effect of political ads is too often ignored, because it is assumed that political campaigns and actual governance operate separately.

“What would Romney have done as president had he been restrained by his own advertising?” Jamieson said. “This is a broken system.”

Jamieson said it is even harder to discover how to fix the system, because correcting false advertising takes 1,000 words, while the advertisements themselves take only 30 seconds.

“They’ve created a collusion between misstatements of fact tied to basic human fallacies, moves that we make almost viscerally,” Jamieson said. “We ought to worry about that...if not we’re not going to get the kind of governance we need at a very difficult time for our country.”

Communication studies junior Heather Lorenzen attended the talk and said she has witnessed the effect of negative advertising first-hand.

“My ... parents still swear Obama’s not American,” Lorenzen said.

Roderick Hart, dean of the College of Communication, said there are important ways communication students can implement lessons from Jamieson’s lecture.

“I think the great journalism question is ‘How do you know [what you think you know]?’” Hart said. “Very few people are saying ‘Given the deluge of advertising, what’s the effect of advertising?’”

Printed on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 as Political advertising dictates public policy, speaker says 

In newspapers and on TV screens, Republican Party leaders are analyzing what went wrong with their most recent presidential bid, but members of UT’s College Republicans chapter are focusing on the future rather than the past.

While members offered different theories to explain the Romney loss, communications director Danny Zeng attributed the Obama victory, which he said was larger than he expected, to a failure by the Republican Party to shape its public image.

“I don’t think we did very well in defining our narrative, and we let the Obama campaign define who we are as Republicans,” Zeng said.

Zeng also said Republicans have been unfairly portrayed as a regressive party.

“We’re painted as this anti-progress party, but when you look at our organization, we have one of the most diverse officer boards of any party organization,” Zeng said.

According to data released by the New York Times, President Obama carried 93 percent of the black vote, 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and 73 percent of the Asian vote.

Chief financial officer Ben Mendelson said the loss was primarily because of a low Republican voter turnout.

“The party is a little bit behind the times in how it communicates with people on an individual level,” Mendelson said.

Republican pollster Michael Baselice, a guest speaker at College Republicans’ meeting Thursday, offered a similar perspective on Romney’s loss.

“We got schooled in 2008 by Obama in terms of social marketing effort, youth and getting out the vote,” Baselice said. “That’s what hurt us again.”

Yet even with the presidential loss, Zeng said there is reason to be optimistic.

“We’re focusing on connecting our people with internships. Republicans control the state Senate and the House, so there are lots of opportunities and a lot of individuals our members are really passionate about,” Zeng said.

Zeng said the club’s focus now is the new legislative session, which begins in January. Additionally, the club will continue to host its weekly speakers. It has already heard from speakers like Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and state Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) this year.  

Environmental science freshman Mitchell Riegler said he thinks the club has already moved on to focus on current events.

“Politics is fast-paced,” Riegler said. “We have to move on past the election. We shouldn’t be too glum.”

Printed on Friday, November 16, 2012 as: College Republicans look to future 

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series examining UT officials’ political donations. This installment examines contributions made by UT faculty members.

The College of Liberal Arts faculty has outspent all other UT colleges and schools in political contributions since 2008. Leading up to the elections earlier this month, UT professors gave almost ten times as much to President Barack Obama as to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Liberal arts professors donated $235,590 to political campaigns and political action committees in the past five years, according to fillings compiled by The Daily Texan from the Texas Ethics Commission and the Federal Election Commission. With 692 professors as of 2011, the College of Liberal Arts is the University’s largest college.

Campaign contributions made by UT professors from all colleges and schools totaled $791,472 since 2008.

Reported figures for contributions by professors include all professors, associate professors, assistant professors and lecturers who identified the University as their employer in state and federal filings. State and federal guidelines do not require individual contributors to disclose their employer, and individuals with multiple employers can choose which employer to list or opt not to include one.

UT spokesperson Tara Doolittle recently told the Daily Texan that campaign contributions fall under an individual’s right to free speech.

“As long as University resources or official positions are not used to advocate or influence political activity, employees are free to participate in the political system,” Doolittle said.

The School of Law, which had 117 faculty members as of 2011, making it the fifth largest college in terms of professors, had the second highest amount of contributions, totaling $191,359. The Cockrell School of Engineering was third, contributing $144,185 between its 245 professors.

Other colleges or schools with a high number of faculty contributions include the College of Natural Sciences with $139,840 from 556 professors, the McCombs School of Business with $59,042 from 153 professors and the College of Education with $32,241 from 178 professors.

Faculty contributions have steadily increased over the past five years and spiked in 2011 and 2012. Faculty members also tend to donate more to federal candidates and PACs than to state candidates or PACs.

Faculty members also contributed regularly to presidential and congressional races — contributing $46,662 to presidential candidates and individuals running for U.S. Senate in 2012, according to opensecrets.org, which is operated by the Center for Responsive Politics.

President Barack Obama received $46,346 in contributions from faculty members. Republican candidate Mitt Romney received $4,650.

Despite the overwhelming preference for giving to Democratic committees and candidates, representatives of UT Democratic and Republican student political groups said personal political preferences don’t necessarily translate to bias in the classroom.

Leslie Tisdale, president of University Democrats said she believes political contributions made by faculty should not dictate their objectivity in the classroom.

“I, as a student, contribute my time because I don’t have much money,” she said. “[Professors] might not have that much time so they contribute in other ways.”

Danny Zeng, College Republicans communications director, said it is usual for professors to donate to Democratic candidates but political affiliation does not always transfer into the classroom.

“I don’t think they are professors who are specifically biased, but it is a more systemic kind of bias — a more professional bias, per say,” Zeng said.

Zeng said political ideologies might structure course material to cover specific topics and teaching methodologies, but allowing broad discussion in the classroom can truncate biases.

President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha arrive at the election night party Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, in Chicago.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

After what some experts have called one of the closest Presidential races in history, Barack Obama has secured four more years in the White House.

As of press time, the president secured 303 projected electoral votes, 97 more than Mitt Romney’s 206 projected electoral votes.

During his concession speech, Romney thanked his supporters and urged bipartisanship.

“This is a time for great challengers for America, and I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney said. “The nation is at a critical point, at a time like this we cannot risk partisan bickering. Our leaders need to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”

In Chicago, President Obama addressed an enthusiastic crowd, thanking them for support and promising to reduce the deficit, reform the tax code, fix the immigration system and free the U.S. of foreign Oil.

“Tonight, in this election, the American people reminded us that while our road has been hard and our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up and we have fought our way back,” Obama said. “In the weeks ahead, I look forward to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about what we can do to work together.”

In his speech, Obama briefly referenced public education, new technologies, global warming, social equalities, the military and unemployment.

“I am returning to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead,” Obama said. “In the upcoming months, I am looking forward to working with leaders from both parties.”

An Oct. 29 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll showed that Romney held a clear lead in Texas. The survey showed 55 percent of voters supported Romney while 39 percent of voters supported Obama. In Travis County, Obama won with 60 percent of the vote compared to Romney’s 37 percent. In 2008, Obama won Travis County with 64 percent. Texas has not voted for a Democratic candidate for president since 1976.

As a whole, Texas voted more conservatively this election. In 2008, John McCain won the southern state with 54 percent of the votes, with traditionally conservative counties like Bexar, Cameron, Dallas and Harris supporting Obama. In 2004, Bush won Texas more dominantly with 61 percent of the votes. With half of the precincts in Texas counted by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Romney had 59 percent of Texas’ vote.

For weeks leading up to the polls, Obama and Romney were stuck in a close race after a series of heated debates. In the final days before the election, Obama and Romney spent their time campaigning in the few battleground states that would decide the presidency.

Obama spent time campaigning in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin Monday, fighting for 34 electoral votes between the states. He won all three.

Ohio’s 18 electoral votes were the turning point for Obama’s campaign. The state was designated as one of the more important battleground states.

Michigan is Romney’s native state and where his late father served as governor. Obama also took Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, adding 10 electoral votes to his victory. The last time a presidential candidate and his running mate lost both of their home states was in 1972, according to 270towin.com.

The president did not spend Election Day campaigning. Instead he attempted to reach out to swing states through television and radio interviews from Chicago. Romney made two last minute stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but those efforts did not help him win either state.


During campaigning, Obama promised to raise tax rates for the upper class but not raise them for the middle and lower classes. During the debates, the president reiterated the importance of keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and Romney repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the aftermath of the murder of Christopher Stevens, U.S.’ ambassador to Libya.

During his first term, the president was credited with keeping the economy from collapsing, passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and overseeing the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden. Romney and the Republican Party have repeatedly criticized the president for raising the deficit and government spending while not decreasing the unemployment rate below 6 percent.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

President Barack Obama has been re-elected, multiple news outlets project. Obama's win over Republican candidate Mitt Romney comes after decisive electoral victories in key battleground states, such as Ohio and Virginia. As of press time, not all states have finished reporting, but mathematically, Romney will not be able recoup the necessary electoral votes. The popular vote remains close. 

People vote early during at a polling place in downtown Chicago, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. About 30 million people have already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia, either by mail or in person.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The White House the prize, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney raced through a final full day of campaigning on Monday through Ohio and other battleground states holding the keys to victory in a tight race. Both promised brighter days ahead for a nation still struggling with a sluggish economy and high joblessness.

“Our work is not done yet,” Obama told a cheering crowd of nearly 20,000 in chilly Madison, Wis., imploring his audience to give him
another four years.

Romney projected optimism as he neared the end of his six-year quest for the presidency. “If you believe we can do better. If you believe America should beon a better course.

If you’re tired of being tired ... then I ask you to vote for real change,” he said in a Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital. With many of the late polls in key states tilting slightly against him, he decided to campaign on Election Day in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he and Republicans made a big, late push.

The presidency aside, there are 33 Senate seats on the ballot Tuesday, and according to one Republican official, a growing sense of resignation among his party’s rank and file that Democrats will hold their majority.

The situation was reversed in the House, where Democrats made no claims they were on the verge of victory in pursuit of the 25 seats they need to gain control.

National opinion polls in the presidential race made the popular vote a virtual tie.

In state-by-state surveys, it appeared Obama held small advantages in Nevada, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin — enough to deliver a second term if they endured, but not so significant that they could withstand an Election Day surge by Romney supporters. Both men appealed to an ever smaller universe of undecided voters.

More than 30 million absentee or early ballots have been cast, including in excess of 3 million in Florida. The state also had a legal controversy, in the form of a Democratic lawsuit seeking an extension of time for pre-Election Day voting.

There were other concerns, logistical rather than legal.

Officials in one part of New Jersey delivered voting equipment to emergency shelters so voters displaced by Superstorm Sandy last week could cast ballots. New York City made arrangements for shuttle buses to provide transportation for some in hard-hit areas unable to reach their polling places.

In his longest campaign day, Romney raced from Florida to a pair of speeches in Virginia to Ohio and then an election eve rally in New Hampshire.

Obama selected Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa for his final campaign day, an itinerary that reflected his campaign’s decision to try to erect a Midwestern firewall against Romney’s challenge. Vice President Joe Biden and Republican running mate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin went through their final campaign paces, as well.

From now until Nov. 6, Austin residents, including UT students registered to vote in Travis County, have the opportunity to participate in democracy and make their voices heard about the direction in which they want to take our city, state and country. This election is not just about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. On the ballot are seven city charter amendments, 11 bond propositions and dozens of contests for city, state and national office. We feel strongly about the outcomes of the following races:

U.S. Senate: Paul Sadler (D)

Barring the most dramatic upset in recent political memory, Democratic nominee Paul Sadler is going to lose his U.S. Senate bid. In the race for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat, the Republican nominee Ted Cruz leads Sadler dramatically in fundraising — $11.8 million to $500,000 — and by 26 percent of those asked in a Texas Lyceum poll conducted earlier this month. That’s unfortunate, because Sadler would be better than Cruz for Texas and the country by an equally outsized margin.

Cruz, an Ivy League-educated former solicitor general of Texas, has attracted mountains of funding and endorsements from nationally prominent conservatives like Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck by wholeheartedly espousing the mean-spirited, ignorant and dangerous ideology of the Tea Party. He has enthusiastically stated his wish to completely abolish, among other things, the Department of Education, which would completely end all federal financial aid for college students and end public education as we know it. Cruz’s illogical and radical positions in juxtaposition to his more subdued academic and professional accomplishments raise a question that has not been adequately answered: Does he really believe what he’s saying? He should know that most of his propositions aren’t plausible, let alone advisable. If he does know better, then he’s capitalizing on the ignorance of his constituency to catapult himself to power. He has no legislative experience whatsoever, so we have no way of knowing whether he’s an ideologue or just an operator, but either way, he’s a bad bet.

Sadler, in contrast, has had a distinguished 12-year career in the Texas House, with a proven record of both bipartisanship and good judgment. Many of us at UT are beneficiaries of his hard work as chairman of the Texas House Public Education Committee from 1995 to 2003. Among the issues he supports are the passage of the DREAM Act, marriage equality for all Americans, adequate funding for public schools, teacher pay raises and effective aid for veterans’ transitions back to civilian life. He’s an extremely intelligent leader and an effective legislator who consistently works well with colleagues across the aisle. We know what kind of senator Paul Sadler would be ­— a damn good one.

State Board of Education, District 5: Rebecca Bell-Metereau

The race for State Board of Education is perennially overshadowed by sexier, more exciting races at the top of the ballot, but it’s worth taking an active interest in that contest this time. The Texas State Board of Education’s hard-line conservatism and radical, politically motivated decisions about what Texas students should and shouldn’t be allowed to learn presents an extreme danger and cannot be allowed to continue. Seemingly, every few months or so another member of the 15-person board starts talking about dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark, praising the Confederacy or removing references to the slave trade, evolution, civil rights leaders and hip-hop music in public school textbooks. But the most mystifying thing about these reactionary champions of ignorance is how they manage to hold office at all. With that in mind, we’re endorsing the Democratic candidate, Texas State professor Rebecca Bell-Metereau, in the race for District 5’s representative on the board. She’s running for the second time against Ken Mercer, one of the most outspoken revisionists on the board. Mercer believes in teaching intelligent design, saying, “Any real scientist understands there are major weaknesses in evolution.” Mercer, a software engineer, also vehemently opposes protecting students against discrimination based on sexual orientation and routinely says things like, “The most discriminated people in this country are not blacks or Hispanics, or any other groups of color or race,” but rather “any Christian American who would dare stand up for the protection of their family.”

We have the opportunity this fall to make the State Board of Education more grounded in reality, and we should take it. Texas students need to be properly educated if our state is going to succeed in the future.

Proposition 1: For

Proposition 1, a property tax increase for Travis County that would pay for a new UT medical school, teaching hospital and other health care initiatives in Austin, would be extremely beneficial to this University’s reputation and, more importantly, the health, economy and well-being of our city. While the tax increase is substantial, even after it takes effect Austin’s health care tax burden will still be the lowest in the state. In addition, the initiative would not only provide Austinites with an excellent new health care option, but would also create thousands of jobs and stimulate the city’s economy. In our view, the tax increase is a necessary evil because, according to the University, it’s the only viable option to pay for the medical school and its associated benefits. The pros far outweigh the cons. Prop. 1 is a net gain for Austin.
 

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University Monday evening in Boca Raton, Fla.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

With 15 days until Election Day in what appears to be a deadlocked race, the two men vying for the position of commander-in-chief squared off on foreign policy in the third and final presidential debate Monday night.

President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney sparred over America’s role as an international power with particular attention given to America’s policies toward Libya, Iran and China. The candidates also discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at length.

Seated at a table with CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer, the first half of the debate continued the testy back-and-forth exchanges that characterized much of the second debate, although the candidates found common ground in drawing the connections between national security and the economy.

Obama emphasized the importance of a strong domestic economy and educational system to achieve America’s goals abroad after he said the math behind Romney’s economic plan “simply doesn’t work.”

“You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done experiments in nation-building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and we’ve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system,” Obama said.

Romney said America has the “responsibility and privilege” of promoting peace and defending freedom abroad. Later in the debate, Romney also said America’s security and strength abroad are dependent on its economic strength at home. He blamed Obama’s economic policies for conveying weakness to the international community during the past four years.

“In order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong, America must lead,” Romney said. “And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home. You can’t have 23 million people struggling to get a job.”

Throughout the debate, which was held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., Obama characterized Romney’s foreign policy positions as unsteady and continually changing.

“What we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map,” Obama said to Romney. “And unfortunately, that’s the kind of opinions that you’ve offered throughout this campaign.”

In response, Romney criticized the president for failing to stand up for American values abroad and sending mixed messages to allies such as Israel.

“The president began what I have called an ‘apology tour’ of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America,” Romney said. “I think they looked at that and saw weakness.”

Danny Zeng, College Republicans communications director, said the president failed to put forward a clear and specific foreign policy strategy and instead used the opportunity to score political points.

“The president didn’t really talk about a coherent strategy for the Middle East and for dealing with China,” Zeng said. “What he did do was just attack Romney the whole time.”

Sandra Ogenche, University Democrats vice president, said Obama presented a clear contrast to Romney’s positions on foreign policy.

“Obama made it clear that his foreign policy is based on understanding the region and putting America first, as opposed to Romney’s reversal to the Bush policies,” Ogenche said.

Monday marked the beginning of early voting in Texas. On Monday, 865 people voted at the Flawn Academic Center, an early voting location. Early voting will continue until Nov. 2. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Printed on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 as: Parting shots

Every Monday, we provide a list of the top three opinion-worthy events to expect during the coming week.

 

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will face off tonight at 8 p.m. in the final presidential debate of the election season. The debate will focus on foreign policy and will be aired on all major news networks, on PBS and online.

Members of College Republicans and University Democrats will argue in a mock debate on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in GEA 105. The debate is sponsored by Hook the Vote and UT Votes.

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich will give a lecture this Thursday, Oct. 25, about leadership challenges after the election. He will be speaking at the LBJ Library Atrium at 6 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public.

I love rigorous toe-to-toe debates, but I hate what I have seen from our presidential candidates in their recent performances. Debates are supposed to force a detailed and focused interrogation of issues, but the past two encounters have only encouraged attacks and personal viciousness accompanied by saccharine smiles. Debates are designed to show candidates’ clarity on positions and contrast their styles. The past two debates have included so many slippery shifts in position that it is less clear today what the candidates believe than it was before the debates. Most of all, debates are intended to showcase leadership demeanor and command capabilities. Tuesday’s “town hall” brawl undermined any opportunity to assess these qualities. The two candidates spent their time interrupting one another, arguing with the moderator and flaunting their postures as aggressive warriors. At moments, it looked like they were keen to clobber one another. These displays of belligerence are harmful on the high school playground, and they are deadly in the White House. Shame on President Obama and Gov. Romney. They are much better than what they have become in this campaign.

I am not nostalgic for the mythical time of “clean” and “substantive” politics in America. I know very well that such a moment never occurred. Despite their powdered wigs and dignified public demeanor, even our nation’s founders engaged in vicious attacks against opponents. Two of the greatest early American politicians, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, literally came to blows, with Hamilton dying from a bullet fired by Burr’s dueling gun. American politics have always involved brawling. Negative advertising is only a modern form of the traditional campaign.

What is new, however, is the use of information overload to obscure positions. Both President Obama and Gov. Romney are throwing more “facts” at listeners than ever before, but they are refusing to offer coherently argued positions. They each claim to support lower taxes, increased government revenue, lower deficits and more spending. They each pledge to assert more American strength abroad while bringing the troops home. Most confusingly, President Obama and Gov. Romney agree that job creation is a priority, while they simultaneously oppose jobs plans or even targeted investments in job creation and training at home. Watching them throw around the data from all directions, one gets more information but less clarity about how purpose and policy will fit together. It is like listening to kids argue about who started a fight. As they debate the facts, it becomes easier to continue the fight than create a useful path forward.

We need debates in our campaigns, but not these debates. The problem is more than format. It is about what we as citizens have come to expect in an age of talk radio and blogs in which those who shout loudest and longest, not those who make the most persuasive arguments, are rewarded with fame and money. We are a public culture of argument without real debate, and that needs to change if we ever want a true marketplace of ideas. At present, we have an overload of facts and positions without the interrogation and testing necessary for finding the truth.

So here is what I propose: Let’s scrap the open “foreign policy” brawl that is planned for the next debate. Instead, the public should demand that the two candidates sit down together at a table (please no more shoulder-to-shoulder jousting!) with an agreed focus on one discrete topic — for example, tax policy or job creation or the Iranian nuclear project. A real debate would require each candidate to explain what he will do in the next four years to address that specific challenge. After that, each candidate should be allowed to cross-examine the other with short questions, not statements.

Under this scheme, President Obama can describe the budget he hopes to pass. Gov. Romney can then ask for details regarding deficits and pork in Obama’s proposed budget. Gov. Romney can outline his own proposed budget, and then President Obama can question him about income inequality and cuts to essential services under his plan. This is the form of dignified interrogation that works in corporate boardrooms, in academic seminars and in policymaking bodies like the National Security Council. It is also how generals assess competing war plans. Why should we expect less of our presidential candidates?

Proposing a detailed plan and defending it against substantive questions about its content and consequences is the most effective test of leadership. That is also what presidential debates should be about. We have had enlightening debates of this kind in the past with diverse candidates, including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot in 1996, as well as Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980. The time has come for a return to policy focus without flamboyant personal attacks. The future of the United States will not be determined by who is best at tearing down his opponent. The progress of our society will hinge on implementing policies that prove, under scrutiny, most helpful to the public.

Dr. Jeremi Suri is a professor in the UT Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. This essay originally appeared on his blog on Global Brief, an international affairs magazine.