ON THESE POINTS, there should be no debate.
• A U.S. presidential election should never be decided by a candidate's ability to deliver a zinger, put-down, one-liner or wisecrack (no matter how clever).
• If you are sitting by a TV tonight and judging the contenders by their stage presence, hopefully you're watching the "The X Factor." It airs before the first presidential debate of 2012 begins at 9 p.m.
• The American public has been hit too hard for too long – with home foreclosures, job losses, uncertainty and an absence of opportunities – to settle for candidates' platitudes. Get specific or good-riddance.
• Ideas matter. So does empathy.
• Mideast combat missions have exacted too great a toll on Americans – in lives disrupted and lives lost – for foreign policy matters to be an afterthought for the candidates … or the voters.
• Today's political advertisements and exchanges often twist the truth beyond all recognition, rendering them useless to any sensible voter. Our democracy deserves better than this.
(In the meantime, you can verify claims at websites such as www.factcheck.org.)
• In seeking to expose an opponent's flaws, each contender would be wise to remember these words written by Mark Twain: "One mustn't criticize other people on grounds where he can't stand perpendicular himself."
Election Day is Nov. 6. Choose wisely.
Three presidential debates and one face-off between the vice presidential candidates are set for this month; each is scheduled to air from 9 to 10:30 p.m. on most major TV networks and cable news channels.
PRESIDENTIAL (Barack Obama and Mitt Romney)
Tonight: From the University of Denver, in Denver, Colo.
Oct. 16: From Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
Oct. 22: From Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.
VICE PRESIDENTIAL (Joe Biden and Paul Ryan)
Oct. 11: From Centre College, Danville, Kentucky