Slaughter ’80, Londregan GS ’88 speak before debate
Before Mitt Romney and Barack Obama battled out their political differences on national television, Wilson School professors Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 and John Londregan GS ’88 discussed their opposing ideologies in Richardson Auditorium.
Whig-Cliosophic Society president Cara Eckholm ’14 said the organization invited Slaughter — the former director of policy planning under President Obama — and Londregan — a fellow at the conservative Witherspoon Institute — to clearly represent different sides of the political spectrum.
Students and community members filled a large portion of Richardson Auditorium, with over 500 tickets handed out to students before the event started. Audience responses to the speakers’ comments showed a clear Democratic majority, despite a decent display of both red and blue foam fingers scattered throughout the audience.
Before Slaughter and Londregan took the stage, College Democrats events chair Will Mantell ’14 and College Republicans president Jacob Reses ’13 fielded questions and comments from the audience.
Reses received boos from the audience when he compared 2012 to 1980, when the American people ousted Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter out of disappointment in his record in office. When he asked the audience who they thought would win the debate, a hearty cheer demonstrated the Democrats’ majority in the crowd.
“Looks like some of you didn’t watch the last one,” Reses remarked as he handed the microphone over to Mantell.
Reses is also a columnist for The Daily Princetonian.
While Mantell received a warmer response from the audience, he agreed with Reses that Obama had a rough performance in the last debate. However, he argued that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden faced more pressure to debate civilly.
“The challenger can get away with a lot more; he can push the president,” Mantell said. “It isn’t presidential for President Obama to be yelling at Mitt Romney.”
While Reses and Mantell’s openings demonstrated partisan politics — Class of 2013 president Zach Beecher ’13 described it as “a little taste of the partisan debate that is going to unfold tonight” — Slaughter and Londregan offered much more moderate views.
Slaughter warned the audience that the following debates, unlike the previous one, would not offer much substantive difference between the two candidates.
“Frankly, after the barrages of campaign ads and a lot of less-than-clear propaganda, I was heartened to see the actual debate,” Slaughter said, referring to the Oct. 3 debate. “That’s not going to happen on foreign policy, because there is not that much difference between them on the specifics.”
Describing the candidates’ stances on Afghanistan, Israel, China and Cuba, Slaughter showed that there are many similarities between Obama and Romney. The one country where Slaughter predicted controversy was Libya, and here she applauded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for taking responsibility for the Sept. 11 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi.
“She was absolutely right to say that; she’s the woman I worked for,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter concluded that, while this debate would not show clear differences between the candidates, she believed Obama would come through under pressure, as he has done in the past.
Though Eckholm said the two speakers were on different ends of the political spectrum, it was not immediately apparent that Londregan represented the conservative side. He described both candidates as less than ideal.
“I’m not particularly thrilled about Mr. Romney’s 47 percent comment,” Londregan said, referring to a leaked video of Romney speaking at a private fundraiser. “I wasn’t particularly thrilled about President Obama talking about people clinging to their guns and religion, but this is what you have.”
Londregan said debates often get more credit than they deserve, comparing the credit debates receive in influencing voters to the credit patent medications get for curing the common cold.
Looking at the economy, healthcare and immigration, Londregan put blame on both political parties.
He said it was not clear who would ultimately win the election, but he predicted the election would be determined by a small segment of the population.
“Much of this boils down to a four-letter word: Ohio,” Londregan said.
When the actual presidential debate started, the Republican members of the audience became more vocal, cheering as Romney took to the stage and raising their red foam fingers. When one member of the audience questioned a statement Romney made about his plans to create jobs, another responded by defending Romney’s tax plan.
According to Eckholm, the Class of 2015 first decided to hold the event in Richardson Auditorium and booked the venue months in advance in preparation for the debate. Whig-Clio co-hosted the debate-viewing party with the class governments, the College Republicans, the College Democrats, the NAACP and PVotes.
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