Friday, February 10, 2012

Debating the debates

Is there any debate on the silliness of the debates?

The usual format, the moderator asks a question.  The moderator makes the question very similar to the question on the same topic asked in every previous debate. But this time, add a twist to the question to allow each candidate to offer his or her most inflammatory response.  Each candidate has 60 seconds to answer. 

If there is an attack on another candidate, that other debater has thirty seconds to respond.  60 second answers.  30 second responses. I can’t explain to my daughter why she has a ten p.m. curfew in 60 seconds.   I can’t place my order at Ruby Tuesdays in 30 seconds.    And with those time limitations, we are actually supposed to learn about the candidates and make decisions?  The debate format allows errors, cheap applause lines and inflammatory comments. This format, after years of refining the timing, avoids any shred of substantive content. 

The very conservative Newt Gingrich agrees with writers of the not so conservative show, West Wing.  Scrap this format and allow the candidates to debate without time limits, without moderators.  The debater would just debate.  If they had nothing to say past bullet points, we would know.  If their plans only had superlatives but no actual plan, we would know.  If a candidate actually had a bright idea, we would know.  Bring back the Lincoln Douglas debate format. 

Or maybe find new moderators.  I learned very little watching the debates in Iowa and New Hampshire.  They don'’t like “Obama-care.”  Why?  It’s socialized medicine, said Michele Bachmann.  Oh.  How is it like socialized medicine?  Never got to that. 
Did the candidates hate all aspects of “Obama-care”? Is it all bad?  Newt Gingrich admitted in Oskaloosa, Iowa that about “300 pages” of the 2700 page document included good ideas.  Never would hear that in a debate. There'’s no time and no good questions. 

Candidates never had to defend their SuperPACS which both parties will take advantage of to spread lies and near-lies.  The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC allows corporations to spend unlimited money without identifying themselves.  What do candidates think about the decision, about super pacs, —about lying?  No time.  Instead, tonight’s debate sponsored by CNN, Fox News and Chevrolet would like to ask this question for the seventh time—but with tonight’'s added twist:
What will you do if your granddaughter announces she wants to marry a gay illegal alien?

At least make the debates fun.  Bring in Alex Trebek.  Make the candidates have to respond in the form of a question.   We would not learn anything less than the current debate format offers.

One last question: Is the current short answer/short response model of debates because the moderators don'’t think the politicians are smart enough to give anything but short answers? Or is it they think the audience is too dumb to pay attention to the longer answers? 

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