by Myra Saturen; photos by Brian Shaud
October 11, 2012
Northampton Community College (NCC) students donned the personas of the major presidential candidates during a mock debate on October 11. Held the week after the first Obama/Romney debate and hours before the Biden/Ryan debate, the debate had as its purpose educating students and voters on the basic views of the two main presidential parties.
The debaters based their stances on those of the actual candidates, having worked with the local offices of the presidential candidates and done their own research to articulate each candidate's views. Moderator Sol Levy, assistant professor of history, and the debaters themselves made it clear that the positions the students represented were not necessarily their own.
Aaron Calhoun portrayed President Barack Obama (D), and Timothy Semonich depicted Governor Mitt Romney (R.) Both students showed poise, knowledge and resourcefulness in assuming these demanding roles. Each had the opportunity to rebut the other's statements. The debate focused mostly on the economy and the candidates' differing overall visions for the country.
Questions and replies included:
The economy: What will you do to get Americans back to work? How will you tackle and reduce the national debt and deficit?
"Obama:" He would focus attention on the middle class, give tax breaks to small businesses investing in jobs for Americans rather than shipping jobs overseas, and promoting education to ensure that the country survives and thrives. He said that since the majority of employers are small businesses that 97% of businesses would receive no tax increases. He characterized the policies of the George W. Bush administration as failed and said that the defense budget could not be enlarged at the same time taxes are not increased. He added that during his administration the number of new jobs had increased by 6.4 million in thirty continuous months in contrast to 800,00 jobs lost a year while George W. Bush was president.
"Romney:" He presented a five-point plan: to encourage clean energy so as to reduce dependence on foreign sources, to open trade, to balance the budget, and to champion small businesses. Each federally funded program would face a test: is that program worth borrowing money from China? He said there was a moral imperative to halt passing down the debt to future generations and that "wasteful spending" should be eliminated by transferring many federal programs from the national to state governments. He opposed "Obamacare" as eliminating health care insurance choice and burdening business owners. "One of the first things I'd do is repeal 'Obamacare,' " he said, maintaining that Americans should have a choice in their health care coverage.
"Obama" rebutted that since health care coverage has been ruled a tax, people can opt out paying the same in taxes as if they had accepted it. People can choose to be under the same health care plan as before, if they so desire. He pointed out that his health plan care is modeled on that of Romney's for Massachusetts.
What should the role of the federal government be?
"Romney:" to protect our Constitution, maintain religious freedom and preserve the right of Americans to pursue their dreams of success. "Successful people are being made to look bad," he said. "We should encourage success, education and advancement. Government should give a hand up, not a handout. " He maintained that "big" government is more susceptible to corruption, more wasteful and less efficient than "small" government.
"Obama:" to protect our citizens, including from terroristic threats, foreign and domestic; to cut taxes for the middle class; and to encourage education. "I want to make sure that everyone has the chance to live a dream -- the American dream. This requires investment in education, clean energy and good health care available to everyone." Alluding to national security, he said, "I eliminated the number one terroristic threat. I ended the question 'where is Osama Bin Laden?' "
What are the main differences between you and your opponent?
"Obama:" He claimed greater clarity than his rival in his record of voting, policy and priorities. He said that he has reached out to people with different ideas and considered these ideas as long as they would benefit the majority of Americans.
"Romney:" He said he has clarified his stances and that he is more effective at bipartisanship than his opponent. He claimed that he has more business experience in the private sector.
"Obama:" "This election is a turning point. It asks whose philosophy and policies you believe in. My opponent has experience cutting rather than creating jobs." He said his vision was that all Americans be safe, happy, well-fed, and have money in their pockets.
"Romney:" "Government should not control people's daily lives. Big government offers more opportunity for corruption, and it is more wasteful. I believe in smaller government because it allows people to make their own decisions and it is more efficient."
Stepping out of their roles as Obama and Romney, the students answered questions from the audience about health care insurance, job creation and taxes.
Members of the American Association of University Women, a non-partisan organization, were on hand to help register voters and to provide information about both parties.
Because the debate was considered educational in purpose rather than competitive, there was not vote taken on a winner or loser. It was sponsored by Student Senate, Phi Theta Kappa, Women's Club, Residence Life, and the Interior Design Club.
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