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Forum, Aug. 5: Discussion Beats Debate; New Low From Trump

Published: 8/4/2016 10:00:13 PM
Modified: 8/4/2016 10:00:11 PM

A Discussion, Not a Debate

Now that the two major political party conventions are over, the drumbeat for presidential debates has begun. In my opinion, these debates have limited usefulness. There are the memorable “gotcha” moments (“You, sir, are no Jack Kennedy.”), but these occurrences seldom add any helpful or substantive information about a candidate’s character or intelligence. We have been saturated with media coverage of the candidates for more than a year, so I question whether debates would add much to our understanding of the candidates’ personalities and proposals, but, if we must have these events, I wish they would change the format so that debates would be less like a mixed martial arts cage fight and more like an adult discussion of important issues.

The first thing that should happen is to eliminate a live audience. Would it not be more useful to have two (or more) candidates seated at a roundtable with the moderator, with only one or two cameras trained on them? No raucous music. No cheering (or booing) crowd. No trick questions from the moderator. No name-calling or insults by the candidates. Then the moderator could ask an important question (for example, “What do you think could be done to make the U.S. immigration situation better?”) and each candidate would have five minutes to make an initial answer, with follow-up questions from the other candidate and the moderator.

I understand that this format does not have the sensationalism and excitement of what usually is advertised as a “debate,” but voters might actually get some insight into a candidate’s character and intelligence if we were allowed to view this kind of discussion.

John Morris

Topsham, Vt.

A New Low From Trump

It is difficult to believe that Donald Trump could reach yet another new low. His criticism of the parents of an American soldier who died in combat and happened to be a Muslim is one more example of the core of the Trump campaign: the Trump holy trinity — “Me, Myself and I.”

George Sutherland


We Agree on Nelson

Thank you, Tim Dreisbach, for your thoughtful and informative letter, “Unfair Claims of Racism” in the July 29 Valley News. I thought I was alone in my opinion about Steve Nelson’s diatribe and race baiting, but there are two of us.

In the past, I haven’t responded to any of “Steve’s vision’ of the world,” as it sounds like he may be someone who is not about to change his mind. But at least there are two of us in the real world who agree that perhaps, just maybe, folks like him are the problem and not the solution. Hopefully, when he gets a little older and wiser, Mr. Nelson will take off his blinders, put down his giant brush and listen to reason.

L.J. Barbosa


Unintended Effects of Green Vote

In last Friday’s Valley News, (“Consider the Green Party This Time”), Patricia Greene suggested that for those voters who supported Bernie Sanders but “cannot stomach the lesser evilism” of the present two-party system, support for Jill Stein and her Green Plan can “send a strong message to the establishment.” 

Unfortunately, recent history has shown us that such message-sending does not always bring constructive change. Ralph Nader’s Green Party almost certainly cost Al Gore the 2000 presidential election. Absent Nader’s Florida votes, a President Gore likely would not have invaded Iraq and there would have been no ensuing Middle East chaos, which remains with us 13 years after the 2003 invasion.

Support for Jill Stein and her Green Party in 2016 could be just as catastrophic for the nation and the world, by costing the Democrats critical votes in battleground states and thus providing Donald Trump with sufficient electoral votes, just as Ralph Nader did for George Bush in 2000.

In that same day’s New York Times, by coincidence, David Brooks wrote, “Most Sanders people are kind- and open-hearted, but there is a core that is corrupted by moral preening, an uncompromising absolutism and a paranoid unwillingness to play by the rules of civic life.”  Something to consider before going Green.

 John Milliman


Supporting Matt Dunne

I am writing to applaud the position of Matt Dunne on the siting of large-scale wind projects in Vermont, namely, that local communities have the right to accept or reject them. Global warming and climate change are serious issues with potentially disastrous consequences for humans and other beings — I trust the scientists who have established this, and value the efforts of talented advocates like Bill McKibben, who has helped keep this matter in the forefront of public debate.

Degrees Celsius and parts per million of CO2 are important elements of the environment but do not constitute the whole of it. In truth, our “environment” is an immensely complex ecosystem with a vast number of elements interacting in myriad ways. While large-scale wind developments may produce clean energy, they do so at the cost of dramatic changes in the environments around them — anyone not convinced of this need only take a short drive to Lowell, Vt., or Rumney, N.H., to see for themselves. I grant that some may see beauty in these tall white towers and slowly turning blades, but many see only obtrusive human industry disrupting the natural beauty of the mountains beneath them. We need nature as much as we need clean energy.

Dunne is not anti-wind power — he is simply saying that local communities should have a strong voice in matters that have major effects on their lives and not have somebody else’s decisions and values imposed on them. Is this not the essence of democracy? Dunne has taken a courageous position on this, one that has already resulted in criticism from some members of the environmental movement. To me it speaks volumes about how he would function as Vermont’s governor: a highly intelligent and knowledgeable person, motivated to solve problems, but eager to listen, and respond, to the wishes of its citizens.

Robert S. Foote


McCormack Has Helped Many

I am writing to express my appreciation for Windsor County Sen. Dick McCormack, who has represented our county for several terms. Thanks to his service on many committees, Education, Environment, Health and Human Services and too many others to mention, the people of Vermont are better off. I am happy to say he lives in my town of Bethel. People in Bethel and all of Windsor County know no matter how small our problems are, he is there to help.

All of use who lived through the flood called Irene remember how McCormack went from town to town every day for weeks and months making sure that everyone knew that they were going to get help they needed. He supported the volunteers who worked at the relief center in Bethel when they were told no more help was needed. He and the volunteers made sure they kept the center open for several months. It is clear to me that we all should make sure that he continues to represent us by voting for him in this coming election.

Ola Odell


Masland and Briglin Work Hard

I am writing to extend my enthusiastic support for Jim Masland and Tim Briglin, both of whom are running for re-election in the Democratic primary Tuesday as representatives of Sharon, Strafford, Thetford and Norwich in the Vermont Legislature.

I am the father of four so-called millennials, ranging in age from 18 to 26. I served six years on the Sharon Selectboard, and was its chair during and after Tropical Storm Irene. Today, I am president of the Sharon Academy board of trustees.

Like me, Masland and Briglin are keenly aware of the needs of our young adults, and of the need for Vermont to institute policies aimed at attracting and keeping them here.

They are certainly not your stereotypical tin-eared politician who enjoys nothing more than to hear his or her own voice. I have found Masland and Briglin to be great listeners, always ready to return a phone call or attend yet another late-night meeting that might be of concern to their constituents.

Most importantly, they have a deep grasp of the real issues directly confronting our communities today, including the potentially dramatic impact of the Act 46 school district consolidation law — which they both opposed. In their quiet but effective style, Masland and Briglin have helped pass legislation to provide universal pre-kindergarten and paid/earned sick days, to expand the state’s contribution to needs-based college scholarships, and to expand the first-time homeowner tax credit. With little or no fanfare, Masland and Briglin have become two of the most experienced and respected leaders in the Vermont Statehouse.

We are lucky to have two of the brightest and hardest-working legislators in Montpelier as our representatives. With the enormous challenges facing our towns and state in coming years, we cannot afford to lose their experience, wisdom and dedication. Please join me in voting for Masland and Briglin in the Democratic primary election. Remember that you can vote from now through Tuesday.

Brad Atwood


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