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George Will: presidential debates dumb, but expected

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Will is not a fan of presidential debates but says they are practically constitutional.

Will, speaking to Whitworth University’s President’s Leadership forum today at the Spokane Convention Center, said “Presidential candidates are required to be 35 years of age and they have to debate.” Will, whose syndicated column appears in 450 newspapers, said, “The debates do not test aptitudes relevant to the duties and responsibilities of president. We are stuck with them.”

Will, well-known as a long-suffering follower of the Chicago Cubs, peppered his 30-minute talk with political and historic references and baseball anecdotes. He also frequently chided government “for believing it knows more about the free market than individuals.”

Alluding to the challenges facing the United States, Will said he would seek to explain to the audience “why the winner of the presidential election will regret it.”

The veteran political observer focused on health care costs and the looming retirement of the baby boomer generation, citing the huge financial resources required to meet the needs of a longer-living population. Medical advancements, for example, have resulted in the average 85-year-old having medical bills five times higher than those of a 55-year-old.

“Social Security was not intended for 20 years of retirement,” Will said, noting that when the program was initiated in 1935 the average lifespan was lower. “The retirement age must be raised,” he said.

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