Global health and poverty a no-show at presidential debate

Just watched the presidential debate . . . sadly enough, my predominant impression is “there’s almost two hours I’ll never get back.”

Okay, that’s not totally true, but overall I found the debate more irritating than enlightening.  Lots of talking points, not many actual answers to the actual questions being asked (despite Jim Lehrer’s valiant efforts).  The Saddleback forum was much more interesting, and shed a lot more light on the candidates and the issues.  (Which is precisely what YouTube is for.)

I found the scope of the debate especially disappointing.  Listening to this ostensible foreign policy debate, you’d think the world consists largely of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, with Russia and North Korea hovering around the borders.  Which left out the vast majority of the world.

I get the fact that certain issues dominate in these types of discussions.  Iraq, for example — after invading a country, you pretty much have to talk about it.  Fine, fine, makes sense.

But here’s the thing: are these the only issues that matter?  As I’ve tried to stress in the past, the US is powerful enough that what it does matters to the whole world.  Millions of people who didn’t watch this debate, who won’t get to vote in the upcoming election, and will never have any say in the American government — these people will feel the impact of the results.  Sometimes it will literally be a matter of life and death.

US policy affects people the world over.  And in a globalizing world, events around the world affect the US.  Sadly, these facts almost never seem to make the talking points.

I’m deeply disappointed that we didn’t see a question about global health and poverty, despite the best efforts of the ONE Campaign and people around the country.  In a sense, maybe that’s naive of me: would talking about those issues change anyone’s mind?  Would they even get noticed?  I honestly don’t know.  But I do know that they need to get noticed.  They should be changing people’s minds.

This debate made me sad, not primarily because of what was said, but because of what wasn’t said.  Both candidates are talking about change in the presidency — heaven knows we need it, and I hope and pray that we get it.  But I would argue that we also need a change in outlook.  We need to look beyond the usual stories, the usual suspects, and look at the world as a whole.  I didn’t see that at tonight’s debate.  I don’t blame the candidates.  They have to say what people want to hear.  So I guess what I’m saying is . . . we the hearers have a problem.

Please, God, help us fix it.

Visit the faith&AIDS 2008 Election page for all kinds of resources for American voters who are concerned about issues like hunger, poverty, and health care at home and around the world.  Find candidate statements, independent analysis, and more.  Want to vote on the issues?  Here’s a good place to start.


~ by h.e.g. on September 26, 2008.

One Response to “Global health and poverty a no-show at presidential debate”

  1. I completely agree. While most of what was discussed was good and necessary (Iraq, financial crisis, etc), the debate ignored development and global health and focused too narrowly on a specific track of national security, in my opinion an outdated one. In addition to the many moral, economic and diplomatic reasons to focus US efforts on foreign assistance, national security in a globalized 21st century is not just missile defense and aircraft carriers. Aid has security implications, from providing quality education to children who would otherwise be indoctrinated with hate, to improving agriculture capacity to stave off food riots, to increasing goodwill towards America through our interactions with the rest of the world. Even Defense Secretary Gates has addressed this issue, arguing that these non-military efforts are indispensable in the 21st century. There are political and economic realities that the next president must face when he is elected, issues that he will have no choice but to address. But international development and public health must be prioritized for the sake of others as well as for the security of our own nation. (note, this is one approach to foreign assistance, not by any means the only one, or the “right” one).

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