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October 08, 2008

RESOLVED: Presidential debates are an insult to our collective intelligence and should be reformed

The format for this year's presidential debates has turned the events into public speaking contests. The candidates don't even respect the moderators anymore. It's time to get rid of debates on domestic and foreign policy and replace them with single topic debates, such as energy, the financial crisis, the war in Iraq, and health care. In the age of the internet and the 24-hour news cylce, we don't need each debate to touch on every issue of the day. We need a format that will force the candidates to engage with each other and the moderator.

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noted and agreed...

the veep debates really drove this home, IMHO, esp. when sarah palin simply ignored the question and went on a talking point rant, never answering the question asked...

would be funny if it weren't so sad...

Regarding this answer by McCain which you referred to:
As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes -- at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those -- be able to make those payments and stay in their homes.

Is it expensive? Yes. But we all know, my friends, until we stabilize home values in America, we're never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy.

If McCain believes in that approach, why didn't he demand it INSTEAD of the bailout bill?

When the system was open to dramatic action, that would have been a good time to propose an alternative to the cash-for-trash scheme which McCain and Obama voted for.

Also, why didn't McCain demand letting bankruptcy judges change mortgages (which was in the September 25 version of the bailout bill but then dropped) be included in the final bill?

I heartily agree, Lindsay...if this is the best they can do they should just give up altogether. Bad formats, consistently terrible moderators, inane questions. Top it off with the brain-crushing stupidity of the post-game "analysis" (aka "A bunch of multimillionaire white guys in suits discuss which candidate best appeals to 'ordinary folks'") and it's nothing short of maddening.

It's probably rose-colored 20/20, as they say, but I seem to remember the fusty, frumpy old LWV-conducted debates of 1976 (the first election I was old enough to follow closely) as being infinitely more substantive and interesting. I guess they were also considered boring, and therefore, bad television. So now we get "town halls" and questions from the internet and preening moderators and the candidates pointlessly pacing around while reciting their talking points. Bleah.

Beyond that, though, there was a truly surreal quality to last night...all this talk about bold new domestic initiatives from both candidates, in health care, energy, the environment...not to mention McCain promising more tax cuts! a time when the entire financial infrastructure of our country is swirling the bowl. Crisis? What crisis?

It is truly to weep.

I completely agree.

If there are to be more debates, I would like to see them allow for more extended discussions,.

I don't need an audience of "Joe Six Packs" either. Just the candidates, in Charlie Rose's studio.

The Republicans would never go along with your proposal, because they don't want to discuss the details of policy. It's not what they do. Anything more than a 2 minute summary statement and they're lost. I'm not even trying to be snarky - it's a fact.

"It's time to get rid of debates on domestic and foreign policy and replace them with single topic debates..."

I thought I had heard somewhere last night's debate was going to be about the economy. Obviously, this was mistaken, since Brokaw decided we needed a word-for- word rehash of multiple questions (and the accompanying canned responses) from the first debate. A good first step, I think, to making the candidates respect the moderators would be to make sure Tom Brokaw and Gwen Ifill aren't allowed to fill those seats again.

Katty Kay of the BBC would be another good choice for moderator

It would be interesting to see one of the sessions hosted by someone who was not American.

Perhaps we should have professors moderate the debates. That way the candidates can respond intelligently and still look more "common" than the elitist, interlectual moderator.

LB said: "The problem with the current format is that the scope of the debate is too broad."

As I see it, the problem isn't the format, but the candidates' bad faith in disregarding the formats their campaigns negotiated for and agreed upon.
If nobody will obey the rules, it won't matter what those rules are.

G'mar chatimah tovah, everybody -- be sealed for good.

Debates have been worth shit since the the parties colluded to purge the League of Women Voters, back when Perot intruded on the two-party circle jerk. The League needs to start holding debates again, regardless of whether candidates show.

I think it's a great idea.

Henry Rollins should be one of the moderators.

TV should be restricted to what it does best: delivering mindless entertainment. No "debates", no "interviews", no "news". I'd rather not have anyone who forms their political ideas by watching television vote anyway. On Nov. 4 please just stay home and enjoy your idiot box.

On Nov. 4 please just stay home and enjoy your idiot box

Yes, all Democrats should to that!

I forgot the most important thing that should not be on television: political advertisements. The morons who let TV ads persuade them which toothpaste and toilet paper to buy have already done enough damage voting for monsters like like G. W. Bush sold to them on TV. The last thing the world needs are any more politicians tailor made for meathead TV zombies. Sarah Palin being exhibit A.

The league of women voters used to put them on. And was taken away from them to promote more media 'savvy' debates. But as is clear now, these are not worthy of the term debate.

One innovation that is possible is fact checking and making adherents be accurate in claims. Not particularly hard to do, but obviously not used for the reason it forces campaigns away from smears and deception to gain advantage.

There are many other campaign reforms. The pretense that elections have to be about raising money is one. But this also brings up this is an end of an era time. And the dawn of a probably longish reformist period. I think after this election cycle it might make some headway to demand significant reforms of the election process. From voting machines, to advertising, to voting rules, there is plenty of room for reform. Why not vote by telephone?

Lindsay, I beg to differ. The foreign policy debate was actually relatively good as far as the format went, because for the first time, the candidates could ask each other questions. They didn't use this mechanism to the fullest extent à la Vinick-Santos on The West Wing, but that's probably because they're used to formats that don't allow this interaction. If free debate becomes the norm in future elections, I expect to see more and more cross-examination and more and more interactivity.

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