First Presidential Debate To Focus On Vague Platitudes

Not a lot of thought went into this.

On Monday, Sept. 26th, the nation will come together as one to watch the first of three presidential debates between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. The candidates have just a few days of preparation left, and to better facilitate that, the debate’s moderator, NBC News’ Lester Holt, has announced the topic areas that he will be covering over the course of the 90-minute tilt.

Those topics are... well, pretty vague! Here’s the announcement from the Commission on Presidential Debates:

Subject to possible changes because of news developments, the topics for the September 26 debate are as follows, not necessarily to be brought up in this order:

America’s Direction
Achieving Prosperity
Securing America

The debate will be held on Monday, September 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. The format calls for six 15-minute time segments. Two 15-minute segments will focus on each of the topics listed above.

So, apparently, the debate will double as each candidate’s college admissions essay.

These aren’t debate topics, they’re platitudes. They are the sort of subjects on which sixth graders write penmanship themes. How does knowing this help the candidates prepare for the debate? How does knowing this enable the debate’s audience to be more informed about the proceedings? Literally who is this announcement for?

As my colleague Ariel Edwards-Levy points out, the best thing about these topics is that they are so completely interchangeable that mixing up all the words neither changes the overall specificity of the debate topics, nor does it impact the candidates’ ability to prepare:

Probably my favorite thing about this “announcement” is the part where the CPD says that they are “subject to possible changes because of news developments.” I really appreciate the optimism: there’s definitely an outside possibility that in the next six days, we might finally achieve prosperity or secure America, making it a moot issue. Should that happen, Holt will have to call an audible, picking from topics like:

  • Securing Even More Prosperity
  • The Perfect Christmas Morning
  • Talk About Your Grandmother
  • Achieving Erection
  • Should We Put Secured Prosperity In Some Sort Of Box, As A Keepsake?
  • How Do I Get This Stain Off My Shower Curtain Liner?
  • Iterating American Synergy
  • Should I Bring Something To Your Party, Wine Perhaps?
  • Dogs Or Cats, Who Ya Got?
  • How Soon Can You Circle Back To Me?

Anyway, tune in Monday at 9 p.m., to hear your presidential candidates finally answer questions like, “America: Should It Good Or Nah?”


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.