The Presidential Debates

Do our preconceived notions prevent us from really listening?

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Comments (26)

(14) Anonymous, November 5, 2012 6:28 PM


Good afternoon Rabbi Salomon, this note is simply an apology. Nov 2, 2012, I sent a comment regarding your article about Presidential Debate. My comment was sent full of errors that I did no realized I was doing, and only because I was writing from my cell phone, within a very cold apartment with no heat, or electricity, or home phone. I still did not expressed everything I wanted to express, as was feeling cold. Now I realized all the mistakes I committed while writing and apologize for that. Thanks again for your interesting articles.

(13) Sanford Jay ("Sandy) & Chana Goodman, November 4, 2012 5:51 PM

The wisest decision that B’nai Yisroel made when receiving the Torah was na’aseh v’nishmah

Very rarely are adults totally objective when it comes to making decisions. That’s why most of those who heard the presidential debates (with some exceptions) will not change their minds. In life we often make faulty evaluations and render bad decisions because we are blinded by our own biases. At Mt. Sinai the wisest decision that B’nai Yisroel made when receiving the Torah from G-d was saying na’aseh v’nishmah for two reasons: First, they realized that this was being given to them by G-d, Who is omniscient and who would always does what is best for humanity, especially B’nai Yisroel. Second, B’nai Yisroel realized that if they had taken the time to evaluate the Torah, they might they might have rejected it for the wrong reasons due to human bias. Sanford Jay ("Sandy) & Chana Goodman, Dallas Texas

(12) Malka Kideckel, November 2, 2012 2:01 AM

Open minded

I think that when it comes to Presidential debates and voting for a President one belongs to a Party. Then they have to rationalise to themselves why the candidate will be a good President. First it was a black President and now, say he looses, were gonna hear about discrimination against Muslims. In any debate we must enter the arena with an open mind, ideally both sides with an open mind. But human nature is that we are biased and judgemental. The Torah talks about these [Middos] and asks to work on these character traits. LIterally for our own preservation.

(11) Cynthia, October 31, 2012 12:39 PM

ask Questions

If I suggest, no matter the topic, ask questions. I have found many times we really don't know what we believe. We need to speak aloud what we believe. Now we can claim what we just heard ourselves say. This may also cause us to question our own beliefs.

(10) Raisy, October 31, 2012 3:21 AM

I am subjective, I am biased

I don't agree that we 'hear what we want to hear'. I think, for myself, I need a premise upon which I judge the worthier candidate. As an observant Jew I was horrified with Obama's support for same-gender marriage, something I believe represents disregard for a long-held respect for the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of our American governmental system. I respected was inspired by Romney's insistence that it is his faith in G-d that sustains his belief in America and its governance. I believe, and was taught, that belief in one G-d and good character and what count. My point is, it's not that people are not objective and have their opinions before hearing debates; the more significant question is: what are the factors that determine one's choice? Is it charm? Intelligence? Oratorical skills? Or is it character and belief in G-d. I frankly, at the risk of sounding intolerant, do not understand how any G-d fearing jew could vote for Obama and the liberal views he espouses.

aviva, November 13, 2012 8:06 PM

A thought

well Raisy, you where wrong! America decided.& truth prevailed. Yes, I am an American Jew, and voted to give our President four more years so he could accomlish all that he set out to do. Romneyl

(9) Manny Flecker, October 30, 2012 6:47 PM

Listening in a debate

Perhaps the first condition necessary in getting a person to "hear" you (in a debate or otherwise) is to make sure that your conversant is WILLING to listen and is open to learning and/or changing his/her opinion. Presidential debates do not demonstrate this; they are statements of position and negation of the opponent's point of view. They are worth watching if only for that understanding of political/economic position as well as showing how each candidate responds under stress and how "Presidential" they might seem. Attitudes also show up in such debates, such as what economic and political philosophy the candidate espouses for various groups in society - is their interest in business or in people? Do they want to solve problems with a focus on the needs and desires of the people or with a more strictly economic focus? That is what political debates are really for and to expect otherwiseis foolish.

(8) Rose, October 30, 2012 5:01 PM

Debates are good

A brief comment on the answer 4 is "Since when is humiliation for a president to participate in a debate?" Humiliation is what he put himself in, like in his comment about the US Marine, for e.g. Or acting like he is in the different world in the first debate. The debates is a moment where both candidates (in this moment, forget who is the president, he might not be in the few months) share their knowledge, planes for the future and explain how that will be possible. We can see if their answers make sense, if they are lying, etc. Forget about the channels opinion, because they all have they preference. They are not free news channels, they are opinions channels, starting with MSNBC, what a clowns. I hope each one really pay attention in what has been said, and don't forget who is really going to protect our blessed Israel. Definitely NOT who doesn't even visit the place.

Anonymous, November 2, 2012 3:52 PM

Protecting who or what??

Unfortunately, Yisroel in response #7 clearly stated the truth that the debate wa simply "sheer entertainment" that "provides something for the media to feast itself on." Said this, why would I sit to watch a debate that include a leader who critizes another leader behind close door thinking no one would be listening, but the Media did. Then why watch the oponent leader who has powerful supporters who are very arrogant in front of the camera calling everyone else "stupid". Do we really need to watch these individuals who only know how to verbally attack and criticize each other, or would we want to watch a debate presenting to individuals who will demonstrate their ways to empower our economy and their unique ideas of protecting the people regardless of social class, race, color religion, creed, and gender. If the rich acquired what they by working hard to attain their wealth, do impse higher taxes on them to help the poor. Rather, help the poor to educate themselves , so that they can later be self sustained. Lower school tuition to an affordable level, so that people can attend school without the borden of financial debts after finishing. Create a health system fair to everyone. For example, my son had a problem with a tooth for over a month. Despite having insurance from the bank he works for. He had to wait for the insurance itself, to make the appointment for him which scheduled for Nov. 1. Because of the huricane, the dentist was closed on that dat, and yesterday we have to rush my son to another dentist on emergency and pay from our own pocket. Obviously, these are the issue the Presuential debate should be talking alleviate and work towards a better system and bring trust to the voters. Thank you very much Rabbi Salomon for sn interesting topic.

musicluver, November 6, 2012 11:18 AM


Well said, Yisroel. This whole debate mishugas turns out to be on how much one can bash the other, instead of talking about how to deal with with the issues at greater length. Politicians act so sleazy. I don't know if any of these presidents are going to make a better America, but I do know that Romney showed himself as a better friend to Israel. That's the only reason while I'll vote for him.

SusanE, November 12, 2012 5:51 AM

I didn't use the word humiliation

The words I used were 'disrespectful situation'.

(7) Yisroel, October 30, 2012 3:19 PM

The Rationale for Presidential Debates

Objectivity is an overrated commodity. We’re by nature subjective. We’ve come under various influences through the course of our lives. They’ve shaped us and molded our frames of mind. We bring our thought processes as thus affected to everything we go on to experience. It’s a good thing that a lousy little debate doesn’t impact us one way or the other too much. That would be dreadful. It would mean we were unprincipled. We watch the debate as we do any sport: it’s a tournament between two contestants, and we’re rooting for our favorite. The reason for the debates is that there is a small minority of undecided voters, who are capable of tipping the balance in either direction, especially if the competition is tight to begin with. Other than that, it’s sheer entertainment. And it provides something for the media to feast itself on.

(6) Anonymous, October 30, 2012 2:20 AM

On the subject of open minds -

The pre-text to having a 'closed mind' is that at one time, we all had open minds, and they became 'closed'. Think about it - when we were children, everything seemed possible! You could fly to the moon and back before dinner time, no problem. The closed minded phenomenon comes from a few side-effects/ills of modern day society. One of those things is stress, which manifests itself in fear: "I'm closing my mind, because I'm afraid that I might lose it, should I listen to this person's argument"....Another reason for closed mindedness is simply laziness - the shortest/least path of resistance is the best. Finally, there is an aura of pessimism in today's society, and we are closed minded because we choose to criticize anything which may bring hope, albeit through initiating major change. The best way I find is to ask "why", "why", "why", and get people to dig deep to get to their cherished convictions. After a while, when you begin to look at things from that basic assumption, you can easily go down a different path with a different set of assumptions. At the end of the day however, I find its so tough to get people to listen and agree with a differing point of view, because that may entitle them to admit that they are 'wrong'...In today's society having the 'wrong' answer at one point is the most horrifying, most scary notion you could ever ponder. Something to think about.

(5) Neal Kantor, October 29, 2012 9:01 PM


Rabbi Solomon, fantastic video as usual. Though please answer your question becasue I certainly cannot, and I would very much love to know the answer. Thank you greatly in advance..

(4) SusanE, October 29, 2012 7:11 AM

Debate vs. Commonsense

Of course no one listens to the other party's words. Even the undecided voters know exactly who they will vote for, they are just trying to look like they are deep thinkers. - - - - - -The debates reminded me of redneck drunks rooting for their home football team. The sore losers will never cheer the winners. I think both parties have debased themselves by appearing in public being rude, lying, and dissing. I also think that any President of the United States of America should never allow himself to be put in that disrespectful situation. Use your own mind and decide from what you have seen that your President has already accomplished. Then make up your mind if you want him to serve another term. Remember, the alternative is Mitt Romney. God help us all. - - - - - - - - - Yes, I am better off than I was 4 years ago. Thanks to Barack Obama, I am safe, warm, fed, drive my car, have healthcare and am again seeing hope for our future.

CharlieB, October 30, 2012 2:20 PM

Not so openminded...

I am glad you are better off but most are not. Think about all the fraud and deception of this administration and the disrespect for those who defend her and tell me if you really believe that four more years of this is a good thing.

DINA, October 30, 2012 3:34 PM


Yisroel, October 31, 2012 5:12 PM

Commonsense Indeed

If Obama could dispossess you of all those amenities, he gladly would. It’s just that he hasn’t had the opportunity to cause so much devastation. To him, it’s all about power-grabbing and self-aggrandizement, at everyone else’s expense. And it’s about regression to the mean.

(3) Danny, October 28, 2012 8:50 PM

Debates do matter

It is clear the Romney won the first debate. Even the democrats admitted this. I trust Romney more on his support for Israel also.

(2) Rosen, October 28, 2012 2:35 PM

are we better off than we were 4 years ago?

As what is often asked, "are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?" - the short answer in comparison/contrast between 2008 and 2012 is YES. In 2008, America was bleeding roughly 750,000 jobs a month and the stock market was roughly at 6500 - 4 years later the stock market has DOUBLED...As for the trickle-down economic policy that has been posed for over 30 years in order for the rich to create jobs, has really NOT worked and/or has not been efficient enough in job creation because giving large tax breaks to the rich does NOT trickle down jobs - otherwise we'd be flooding in jobs today. Under Obama, we have seen (relatively) consistent job creation each month, which is better than bleeding thousands and thousands of jobs under the previous administration. It could be better if congress worked more with Obama, both democrats and republicans instead of blocking several jobs bills. The problem is that the GOP has been obstructing Obama every step of the way and want to make him a 1-term president ahead of moving America forward, particularly in job creation. While Obama has been trying for the past 4 years to get America back on track, how can anyone honestly vote for Romney when he has said that it would take 8-10 years if he were elected? Romney does have a record of destroying jobs and companies thru his firm Bain Capital and the ones that this firm has paid has been low wage such as at Staples and Sports Authority. Plus, his firm has sent many jobs to China such as with Sensata which had already been profitable in America. That's why Obama said he doesn't want to go back to the failed economic policies that were created under the GOP.

Sidney, October 29, 2012 12:34 AM


What does this reply (2) have to do with Rabbi Salomon's video. It seems to me - nothing.

Michael, October 30, 2012 4:09 PM

It proves Rabbi Solomon's point

Most if not all made up their minds before any of the debates began.

Anonymous, October 30, 2012 3:40 PM


aviva, October 30, 2012 6:55 PM

Agree with Susan..

You made a briliant point,Never in our history has a President inherited a bigger mess than Pres.Obama did in 2008. Lest we forget,Republicans helped create it previous 8 years in office. The President has made major improvements to get us back on track,but given only a 4 year limit is the most frustating thing to accomplish. Let's look at the facts,not only as Jews but as Americans. Whatever the President said he would do...he did.Unfortunately there is not enough time to "fix it".,He deserves another 4 years. As for Romney, he cannot tell the truth,so his theory to win us over is just say what he thinks we would like to hear. As a proud 3rd generation American Jew, I find his politics degrading,donot consider myself a"47% victim". Does the man think we Jews are morons or his ego thoroughly controls his mind. I rest my case.! Aviva

Anonymous, October 30, 2012 7:00 PM

brilliant.... you said it all!!!!

Wish u could put that out on the air to put some sense into those who r believing his fantasy of making our country "Utopia". Abby

(1) Harry Pearle, October 28, 2012 1:46 PM

We Need ONGOING National Debates on the Economy, etc

I think we need to stretch out our important debates on our future...The presidential debates only allowed for a few minutes per topic and thus it was hard for us to take them seriously, hard to listen to them......But after the election, I believe we will see more debates, marathon debates on the economy, education, Iran, poverty, debt, etc, etc.....What the presidential debates accomplished, in my opinion, is that they opened the door to the debate process that we need to continue.By continuing the debates, we will hopefully increase our interest and involvement. Hopefully, we will get closer to the TRUTH, EMES.....(Avos 5.20 says: "Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure." )


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