BHS grad talks way into audience

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

A Brookhaven High School graduate has talked his way into theaudience for the first televised presidential debate of the 2008presidential election.

James Hoggatt, a University of Mississippi sophomore majoring inpolitical science and philosophy, was one half of the winning teamin a debate Monday night. The prize for the winners was tickets tothe presidential debate Friday night between Sens. John McCain andBarack Obama.

Monday’s debate was held at the school of journalism at OleMiss. The topic focused on whether the United States should helpand support the Pakistani government.

Hoggatt’s partner was freshman broadcast journalism majorArianne Keisel of Mandeville, La. They each were awarded a $500scholarship in addition to the tickets to the debate.

Hoggatt said he’s looking forward to watching the debate, andthat he hopes the candidates are not afraid to address the realissues that are facing the country. He said the debate is importantduring an unstable economic period.

“I hope there’s a way for the candidates to move past the prettylanguage and talk about the issues, instead of reading off cannedremarks that their speech writers came up with,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hoggatt predicted the candidates would have certainhurdles that they will each need to overcome if they are going tocome out on top in the debate.

“Sen. McCain needs to take the time out and show that though hehas strong military experience and has agreed with President Bushon many things, that he’s his own man,” he said. “He’s going tohave to show that he knows what is and what is not goodpolicy.”

Obama, Hoggatt said, will be facing the public’s suspicions thathe might be too inexperienced for the job.

“Obama needs to strengthen people’s perception of his ability toconduct foreign policy,” he said. “He’s young and new, and becauseof that everyone’s afraid he’s going to burn out. But if he canprove he’s able to handle foreign policy, it will really bolsterthe public’s faith in him.”

In response to media reports that McCain had asked to cancel thedebate so the nation could focus on its economic crisis, Hoggattsaid it would be beneficial for both candidates to be presentFriday night.

“I agree with Sen. McCain that there needs to be a strong focuson our economic situation. I mean him no disrespect when I say thatone man can’t fix it alone, and his running to Washington for fourdays won’t save Wall Street,” he said. “It would be a lot morebeneficial for the American people if he can multitask, becausethis election is 40 days away, and we haven’t seen these candidatesface to face.”

The chance to evaluate both candidates up against each otherwill be important, Hoggatt said, as much of the nation is stillundecided.

Meanwhile, the university and the city of Oxford continue tomake ready for the Friday night debate, with university officialssaying they have prepared for the influx of visitors anddignitaries this weekend and will continue to prepare until toldotherwise. Hotel rooms throughout the region have been booked andlocal businesses have braced for the extra traffic.

“This is going to be a historic moment,” Hoggatt said. “Oxfordwill potentially be the place where our next president will bedecided.”