The setting was Mrs. Bretz’s sixth-grade classroom, and it was my time to stand and deliver a thorough and accurate answer to the homework question. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, strung together a few sentences with verbiage that sounded impressive enough, and then calmly began walking back to my desk.
Not so fast.
I can still plainly hear the words coming from her mouth: “You didn’t answer the question, you didn’t answer it at all.”
Oops, was it that obvious? My friend Snookie bought it — he even whispered that to me when I started slowly walking back to the front of the room. Good friends are hard to come by.
The teacher asked the same question again. I stumbled through a few more sentences and it was obvious I was caught. There were no excuses. I was guilty as charged. The walk back to my desk this time seemed a little longer.
That exchange between student and teacher, and my ultimate embarrassment comes back to me every time I watch presidential candidates debate. I’m afraid President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would both be in trouble in Mrs. Bretz’s class.
“You didn’t answer the question ...”
Romney was more prepared in the first debate, and it showed. Obama’s poor performance allowed Romney back in the race. But Obama hammered Romney last week, having an answer for his opponent’s every attack. When Romney thought he had one of those gotcha moments, he ended up stepping into a pile of stuff that had an unpleasant aroma.
Neither candidate, though, can look you in the eye and truthfully say they gave real answers or precise details about how they are going to solve the long list of problems facing our nation. “We’re going to solve this problem” and “we’re going to make this better” hardly does it for me unless you tell me how.
It’s all right to point out how your ideas differ from your opponent, but assigning blame doesn’t do much for me. Without naming names, it’s pretty obvious in the debates which candidate is the best finger-pointer. If you pay attention to Monday’s debate, you’ll see the same thing I see.
As for me, I’ve got Mrs. Bretz to thank for looking a little beyond the surface when someone answers a question. I don’t get caught up in the verbiage. I look for real answers.
Unfortunately, one thought will likely come to mind over and over on Monday: “You didn’t answer the question; you didn’t answer it at all.”
Mike Goens can be reached at mike.goens@TimesDaily.com or 256-740-5740.