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uNequivoCAl stAbility

Was Alabama “unequivocally” better than Ohio State in determining that all-powerful fourth and final spot in this year’s college football playoff?

The only thing that’s “unequivocal” in college football right now is the instability of, well, college football.

Put simply, there were legitimate reasons for and against Ohio State’s case to be the fourth seed in the forthcoming college football playoff next month. This coming from a lifetime Buckeyes fan. To spare you a lengthy relitigation of that fierce debate (a 51-49 decision either way), I’m going to give the megaphone to former Colorado Buffalo quarterback and Fox College Football analyst Joel Klatt. His reaction to the controversial criteria of the playoff selection committee and the playoff’s future, heard and seen yesterday on The Herd radio/TV hybrid program, was insightful and necessary.

Simplicity is one of the fastest routes to unequivocal stability and, equally important, trust. Will the influential power players of the NCAA apply Mr. Klatt’s thoughtful suggestions in the near future concerning college football’s playoff qualifications?

Perhaps, except the NCAA thrives on complicating things and Mr. Klatt’s easier and more rational format could mess all that up.

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Fiorina’s Second Debate Win

“In a victory for the former HP CEO, the cable network announced Tuesday that it is amending its rules for qualifying for the Sept. 16 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to include all candidates who are polling on average in the top 10 in surveys conducted after the Aug. 6 Fox News debate.”
–Zeke J. Miller (TIME)

This recent development is the sensible response by CNN. Plus, the second Republican debate on September 16th could prove to be the pivotal debate for Carly Fiorina. Why? Her fantastic performance at the “Happy Hour” debate was her first positive introduction to the country and Republican electorate, but now she has high expectations. Mrs. Fiorina has been given the opportunity to articulate her conservative message and vision at the wondrous Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

If Carly Fiorina, in front of Nancy Reagan, can channel the charming wit and grand inspiration of the man for whom the library was built, her ascent in the polls will continue and sustain during the coming months.

To stand out in the house of Reagan, she must not fall victim to or engage in shouted interruptions by desperate poll climbers, but instead rise to inspirational storytelling that illustrates how the United States of America can successfully deal with its dangerous foreign policy threats and how it will rebuild its economic foundation (opportunistic tax reform, spending reductions by focusing on the priorities of the times, structural entitlement reform, a specific plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, legal and illegal immigration, etc.) that will lead to an optimistic (yet attainable) future.

This is her chance at a very rare second first-look. There will be a particularly bright spotlight on Carly Fiorina in how she will deal with the widespread anxiety and turmoil at home and abroad.

What would Ronald Reagan do?

“Peace through strength.”

That seems like a savvy approach for the debate’s venue and for the American people tuning in.

Goliath v. Goliath

“I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.
—William F. Buckley, Jr.

The sentiment above may perfectly encapsulate the politest inner (and entertainingly outer) intellectual assessment of Buckley to ideological enemy Gore Vidal and vice versa.

Fortunately, for political and philosophical enthusiasts, the 20th century’s intellectual brainpower of the citizenry for conservatives and liberals made sure to apply their thoughts and opinions in the form of never-before-seen jabs and rhetorical roundhouse kicks on national television. Even more fortunate is that a documentary of their epic battle on the desperate ABC network for the 1968 presidential election at the Democratic and Republican Conventions was made.

(Best of Enemies is one title both sides can, surprisingly, agree on)

Debate has rarely seen such high-minded, reserved intellect juxtaposed with simmering, raw emotion.

Buckley and Vidal are undeniably confident and charming, especially to the delight of each person’s admirers. But even members of the opposition have to salute their rivals’ clear linguistic prowess and quick wit, despite overwhelming differences in their views of the world.

With the evolution of cable news and constantly improving technology to record and disperse communication, this sort of televised political fireworks was bound to happen. The difference with William F. Buckley, Jr. vs. Gore Vidal is that it was lightning in a bottle between two giants in political commentary and American society more broadly. Moments like this are rare and profoundly cherished. Duplicating this magic is virtually impossible.

Just ask movie studios.

Another difference from the era gone by as documented in Best of Enemies was the selectivity of the highest intellect on politics, life and the social order for a prime-time 1 v 1 battle. Conversely, today’s public dissensions simulate the worst instincts of reality television, comprising of endless small ball soundbites and unrestrained, obnoxious insults interrupted with occasional insight and guidance by writers and thinkers of substance and perspective.

There are intellectual leaders and commentators of conservatism and liberalism in today’s journalism ranks, but they aren’t given the same elevated and exclusive platform as Buckley and Vidal. They’re here, just waiting to sit directly across their enemy to battle on the front lines of their cause for the future of the nation’s civilization on television’s biggest stage.

Ultimately, was this epic match-up between two men with seismic intelligence, who genuinely despised one another as displayed by their heated temperaments, good for public discourse and debate on television? For their respective movements?

Either way, “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.”

And Mr. Eastwood Has the Last Laugh

The 2012 General Election for the presidency will be won and lost in the debates.

The first presidential debate revealed the American people are engaged and listening to President Obama and Governor Romney. For both campaigns, the stock price for ads (especially negative ones) in the final month has dropped significantly. Tens of millions of dollars of advertisements were no match for a free 90-minute debate and exchange of ideas. There is a new barometer for winning the presidency on November 6th: words and performances matter and therefore debates are defining.

President Obama was flat, void of new ideas and lacked “2008 inspiration.” Governor Romney was prepared, sharp and encouraging for legislative progress in the nation’s capital. Keep in mind that throughout the debate, Obama rarely smiled or made eye contact with Romney, who in turn did the opposite. As a result, Romney looked better and even more presidential than the current occupant of the Oval Office who was just feet away. The split screen made this blatantly obvious and also exposed Obama’s arrogant refusal to accept any criticism as legitimate. The president looked down at his notes most of the evening and didn’t even look present in Denver. The New Yorker best illustrated this observation:

121015_2012_p465.jpg
Barry Blitt, The New Yorker

Jon Meacham, while on Morning Joe last week, may have said it best. “No one has spoken to him that way — no one has tried to interrupt him — in four years.”

The sheer fact that the impressive debate victory for Governor Romney moved the needle so far with such a small group of undecided voters this close to the election is monumental and, dare it be said, potentially game changing. It will also be remembered as one of the many quiet moments when Super PACs, with their unlimited cash flows, carried little weight to the simple contrast of ideas spoken to an audience of more than 67 million people on a single night.

It was a contest with a clear winner and loser, just how Americans like it.

While this fluidity in poll numbers applies to both candidates, Romney has a significant advantage because the American people, conservatives and Republicans in particular, have been yearning for a clear line in the sand to be drawn regarding distinct policy differences to the current positions that have shaped the past four years. They finally got them.

Is Mitt Romney perfect? No.

Is Mitt Romney the ideal conservative for President? No.

Is Mitt Romney a great campaigner? No.

Can Mitt Romney improve America’s economic situation? More people are starting to believe he just might be able to.

Three more debates remain, one vice presidential and two presidential, and they will determine the winners and losers of the 2012 General Election. This is the final stretch and, as the American people proved last Wednesday night, we will be paying attention and listening intently to the two men on stage.

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams said before the first debate that it will be mostly political ‘theater.’ If that’s the case, then President Obama clearly missed the memo and Governor Romney is writing quite a third act.