Roberts, ducking debates, disrespects Kansas voters


With the decision of United States Senator Pat Roberts to skip debates with his opponents, Kansans are deprived of a useful part of the political process.

Election campaigns are an essential element of representative democracy. Campaigns are simultaneously a means for those who seek elective office to connect with voters and a way for citizens to learn about the candidates who are seeking their votes. Political campaign debates are an integral component of the modern political campaign. … Voters have come to expect election debates, particularly in the race for the president of the United States but increasingly for other elective offices as well. (Political Election Debates: Informing Voters about Policy and Character, William L. Benoit)

With the decision of United States Senator Pat Roberts to skip debates with his opponents, Kansans are deprived of a useful part of the political process.

This decision makes sense on only one level, that being the preservation and promotion of Pat Roberts’ political career. Evidently he and his political advisers have decided that he can win the primary election without the candidate participating in one or more debates.

But Roberts’ career and his electoral prospects are not relevant public policy.

That Roberts won’t debate is rich in irony. In his reporting of Roberts’ decision to skip debates with his main opponent Dr. Milton Wolf, Steve Krake wrote “Roberts is a Marine who portrays himself as willing to stand up to anybody. But he won’t stand up to Wolf, whose feisty, upstart campaign has given the incumbent headaches from the start.” (Steve Kraske: Sen. Pat Roberts won’t debate Milton Wolf)

Another element of irony is that the United States Senate is often described using phrases like “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” partly due to its tradition of allowing unlimited, or lengthy, debate. Roberts has served in that body for nearly 18 years and wants another term.

It’s also curious that Roberts would turn down debate opportunities. He has a reputation as a quick wit when speaking.

Even more curious, when you engage the Roberts campaign on inconsequential issues — such as whether campaign manager Leroy Towns lives in Kansas or North Carolina — you’ll get a quick response.

But ask a substantive question using the same communication channel, and there’s no answer. An example question is whether the senator will support the authorization of the Export-Import bank. That’s an important issue, one which the senator dodges, and about which he might be asked in a debate.

Debates are probably stressful events for most candidates, I’m sure. That’s part of their value. Put the candidates in front of a skeptical and inquisitive audience (the debate moderators) and a critical audience (the debate opponent), and see what happens when candidates are stressed a bit.

Speaking of stress: Roberts has made the ability of a senator to stand up to stress a campaign issue. In a profile this week in the Kansas City Star, Roberts criticized an incident from his opponent’s past, saying “Send him to Washington and see how stressed he gets.”

Roberts’ decision to skip a useful ritual of American politics may lessen his stress level and advance his personal political career. But it disrespects Kansas voters.


2 responses to “Roberts, ducking debates, disrespects Kansas voters”

  1. Richard Coe

    With Roberts, at best, we get more of the same. My exposure to Milton Wolf has been limited, but I like what I have seen and heard. I am inclined to take a chance with Wolf rather than continue with someone who has clearly stayed too long in Washington. Roberts may vote conservative, but he appears to do so out of political necessity. He would rather bring home the bacon than cut spending.

  2. sheila

    His 2012 net worth, the Center for Responsive Politics says, was between $850,029 and $2,540,999, not including the Virginia house in which he lives.

    By contrast, Roberts’ financial disclosure for 1982 – his second year in Congress – claimed holdings valued between $20,002 and $65,000. The listing included half-interest in a vacant lot in Dodge City.

    Read more here:

    This money does not include the $4.4 million in his campaign account.

    Go to Washington and become a millionaire!!!!!

    “So, the next thing you know old Jed’s a millionaire. The kin folks said, “Jed, move away from here!” They said Washington was the place you ought to be, so he loaded up his truck and he moved to DC.” Washington that is. Big money. Power. Tons of dough.

    And LOTS of pharma money!!!!!!

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