In anticipation of tonight’s Vice-Presidential debate, and the two Presidential debates to come, I’ve been thinking of some lines I’d like to hear, but probably won’t:

  • “I’m glad you brought that up, because I shouldn’t have said what I did. It was a mistake and here’s why.”
  • “There’s a simple explanation for the inconsistency: I changed my mind. I think a good leader changes his mind sometimes. Let me tell you why I’ve changed mine.”
  • “I’m not going to promise that because, frankly, there are a lot of things I can’t control. But I’ll do my best.”
  • “I know this is an unpopular position, but let me explain why I hold it.”
  • “There are many problems government can’t fix and many problems politicians shouldn’t try to fix. That doesn’t mean we don’t care. It means we’re not gods and you shouldn’t expect us to be.”
  • “You raise a really tough issue. There’s no clear cut answer. I can see why my opponent thinks the way he does, but let me try to explain the tradeoffs and why my position makes more sense.”
  • “It’s possible for me to disagree with their decisions, their ideas, and even their religion without despising them. Just because I don’t think everyone is doing what is best doesn’t mean I don’t want what is best for everyone.”
  • “I’m not smart enough or virtuous enough to figure out everyone’s fair share.”
  • “I don’t pretend to understand the needs of every American or feel every hurt.”
  • “I may not be able to find a job for everyone, but I will do my best to defend this country, defend the constitution, defend your liberty, and defend the rights granted to us by God.”
  • “There is no reason a President needs to give his opinion on that or even have an opinion on that.”
  • “I don’t know.”

The irony is, despite all the potential “gaffes” in these statements, I think most voters would find this candor refreshing and appealing.

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28 thoughts on “Unlikely Debate Lines”

  1. Romney has done the second with abortion, and he did the fourth in last week’s debate on the PBS issue.

  2. AStev says:

    A lot of the ones at the top of the list would go over quite well.

    Unfortunately, the ones at the bottom of the list would be quite susceptible to spin. (“He’s heartless, he doesn’t care about job creation, he think he knows what’s best for everyone, he’s uninformed, he’s ill-prepared…!”) Granted, they’ll be saying that anyway, but no need to hand them ammunition.

  3. Michael B. says:

    “There are many problems government can’t fix and many problems politicians shouldn’t try to fix. That doesn’t mean we don’t care. It means we’re not gods and you shouldn’t expect us to be.”

    Of course when this is said, this is referring to an issue the person doesn’t consider essential.

    “I may not be able to find a job for everyone, but I will do my best to defend this country, defend the constitution, defend your liberty, and defend the rights granted to us by God.”

    Imagine hearing this if you’re unemployed, and see how you’d react. It basically comes across is, “The government isn’t responsible for getting you a job. I really don’t care. You’re on your own”.

  4. Mike Minter says:

    Great stuff. Here is another one. “I want America to know that I don’t hate my opponent. I actually believe he really cares for this nation. I believe he has a good family as evidenced by well behaved children and a loving wife. I believe he wants the best for our nation. We simply have a different approach as to how to get there.
    Mike

  5. Cheri Galloway says:

    The one about changing your mind won’t work when your mind changes hour by hour or day by day.

  6. Ben says:

    “I will not create X million jobs. Presidents don’t create jobs. Businesses do. Corporations do. The most I can do is help create a favorable climate for businesses to flourish.”

    “Rich people don’t bury their money in a shoebox. They buy things from people who hired people to make those things. And they invest their money in businesses—which also hire people to get work done.”

  7. Dee says:

    All of those would require humility….
    If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves, pray, seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

  8. SK says:

    You must have loved a certain candidate’s “above my pay grade” answer.

  9. Laura says:

    These lines sound like they would be good to hear at an elder meeting but shouldn’t be expected or hoped for in a Presidential debate.
    A staffer who advised his candidate to use this kind of speech in a debate would be a poor advisor and would probably lose his job, as well as lose the election if this advice was followed!

  10. Jeff says:

    Please provide some Biblical references to confirm that we actually have “rights granted to us by God”. I am a defender of the Constitution and the Founders’ intent, and I do believe that we are endowed with our Creator with certain inalienable rights. The problem is, a lot of my Christian friends are now arguing that there are no individual rights, and that Christians, especially, have no rights, and that we are supposed to place our wants and needs below the “collective”. I’m dismayed at how many folks on the Christian Left are actually denying the basic principle that individuals have rights. When I point to the Ten Commandments and the clear command not to steal, which to me clearly states that individuals have a right to their own property, my Leftist opponents just retort that anybody can twist Scripture to mean anything they want, but that Jesus wants us all to be collectivists with no individual rights. These Leftists are literally stating to me on many occasions that “Liberty” is not good or desirable, and that bad (non-progressive) people have “used the Liberty excuse” for years to oppress minority groups, etc. Please help.

  11. Nate Davis says:

    As usual KDY for the win. Working on Capitol Hill I can assure you these words would be welcome to our national discourse.

  12. Mel says:

    Laura’s comment unfortunately is a very common attitude and the reason that we have such poor quality of men running for office.

    We don’t hold them to a higher standard because we just want them to do something for us. The fact that we don’t see their character as having an impact on the job they are doing is exactly why we get men of no character.
    Obviously we get what we expect and we make excuses for what we get. Then we deserve exactly what we get. We have no one else to blame but ourselves. Just like Adam and Eve we are all about blaming someone else though.

  13. Phillip says:

    In the culture of today, the grand illusion.
    May the Kingom be spread about abundantly.

  14. Murray says:

    I agree with Laura.

    Just to state the obvious: we live in a democracy. In a democracy, the people who have power are by definition the people who are really good at persuading people to vote for them. Humble men don’t run for office. It’s the nature of democracy, and it has ALWAYS been the nature of democracy. Sorry, peeps; we’re not ruled by philosopher-kings.

  15. Reg Schofield says:

    Better yet , why can’t we have a real political debate , not sound bites . Let each side speak and lay out their platform for the country . Where its at , where it needs to go and how the leader see’s that unfolding. Then allow for a Q and A by the candidates , each taking turns . Then a rebuttal time for each , no interrupting , followed by a closing arguments why they are the best for the country at this time . Political “debates” are not real debates and I don’t waste my time . Plus here in Canada with 4 parties , its worst . We need a real debate format .

  16. I especially like the lines about there being no solutions, only tradeoffs and compromises (thank you Thomas Sowell!)

  17. Amanda Veltkamp says:

    Murray, we don’t live in a democracy. We live in a constitutional republic. We are rapidly undermining that, however, and moving toward the mob rule of unbridled democracy. Unfortunately, I agree with the rest of what you said. Humble people can still run! I wish they would. Humble doesn’t have to mean timid!

  18. Rose says:

    Wow! Except for the line about finding jobs, these are lines I’d love to hear from pastors now and then. Maybe if we heard them from clergy for a few decades, we’d start to hear them from Presidential candidates.

  19. Thomas Pujol says:

    Deyoung for President!

  20. Great thoughts Kevin. Now that the debate is over I am thinking I did not hear any of your suggestions.

  21. Kimberly says:

    This is excellent. I tweeted both candidates and urged them to read. Who knows they may get more votes. I would totally appreciate that transparency.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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