Thursday, October 25, 2007

What did we learn from the KSL debate?

Debates over the voucher referendum are coming fast and furious now. I hope to write more about the KSL debate between Richard Eyre and Lisa Johnson, and I will, but I thought I'd put up the links to the KSL video now and add more to this note later.

If you want my opinion, I think Ms. Johnson took this one home with her clarity, consistency and believability. I know that Mr. Eyre is a salesman by trade, but in a matter of important and expensive public policy like this, it might have been better not to appear and sound like a salesman. The most ridiculous moment was when he pulled crumbling Oreo cookies from his pants pocket.

I have to say that the Oreo cookie theme was cute when the Eyres first rolled it out, and it made a good (though misleading) prop for a tv commercial. But after two months of Oreo cookies, I think most people are tired of them (at least I am). Even the moderator seemed to think it was ridiculous to have him drag out crumbling cookies.

Debates are as much about performance as about the information, so I'll make one more point about Mr. Eyre's performance, since he's had a long career in public speaking and should know how to present himself well. For thirty years, Mr. Eyre has presented himself as a "nice guy." But he really didn't come across as "nice" in the debate, he came across as, well, overbearing, leaning over toward Ms. Johnson for part of the time -- when he wasn't trying to make friends with the moderator. (Maybe this is going too far back, but does he remind anyone else of Eddie Haskell, from "Leave It to Beaver"? Really phony and artificially earnest?)

And interrupting a speaker may win you points for being aggressive in big-league debates or especially on the cable news shows, but interrupting Ms. Johnson's responses just reinforced my feeling that Mr. Eyre isn't the "nice guy" that he portrays in his books and appearances on national tv. It makes me wonder, Does he do that at home? Is "bullying" one of the character values taught in his Joy Schools?

For now, the link to the KSL video is here (