I learned a long time ago that when interviewing someone for a job you learn more by asking how they handled a situation than by asking them how they might handle something in the future.
This little pearl of wisdom might be helpful for the moderators in the various political debates this month.
Questions that project future behavior tend to generate testimonials of good intentions.
QUESTION: “Mr. Candidate, what would you do about poverty?”
ANSWER: “Poverty is a terrible thing and I promise that in my administration we will help people, make sure no child goes to bed hungry, every home has a plasma television and whirlpool in the bathroom.”
On the other hand, questions on past behavior require some evidence.
QUESTION: “Ms. Candidate, can you tell me about a time when you helped the poor.”
ANSWER: “Yes, when I was a state representative I sponsored legislation and got it passed that created a business enterprise zone. That generated 1,000 new jobs and the people hired were able to feed and clothe their families.”
Frankly, I think we’re going to get more questions related to “what I would do” than “what I accomplished.” And this will be combined with “gotcha” questions and answers.
GOTCHA QUESTION: “Mr. Candidate, is it true that you mispronounced the name of the wife of the former president of Nigerian at a campaign appearance in 1972?”
GOTCHA ANSWER: “I don’t recall the incident, but I know that when my opponent was in the third grade she failed to appear for an after-school detention, which demonstrates her blatant disregard for the rule of law.”
I must admit that I find is nearly painful to watch the “debates.” The questions and answers are inane. And the format isn’t really a debate in the classic sense. It is more like an exchange of talking points with a moderator to act as a human metronome.
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