Dictionary.com defines a “debate” as: “A formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of a proposition are advocated by opposing speakers.”
That is not what will take place during three exchanges between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, or the one vice-presidential exchange between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
The selection of liberal “moderators” for these sessions by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates is, as Joe Biden might say, a 20th-century model for the 20th century.
Has anyone come up with a statement of purpose for these sessions? It seems less about getting information useful to the public and more about showcasing TV anchors and reporters who mostly ask questions through the liberal prism of their own biases, hoping to produce “gaffes” by at least the Republican candidate.
“Diversity” is the stated reason for the selection of two female moderators. One of them, Candy Crowley of CNN, said that Romney’s vice-presidential pick “looks a little bit like some sort of ticket death wish.”
Question: What is the difference between a male liberal and a female liberal? Answer: There is none. That would also be true for any minority the commission might have selected as moderator, if that person were also a liberal. Debates should not be about gender or racial diversity; they should be about ideological diversity.
During the Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich proposed a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates with no moderator – just the two candidates having a conversation about how they would lead the country. But because we live in a television age, which has conditioned us to brief sound bites, that kind of lengthy conversation might cause most eyes to glaze over.
Here are some better alternatives:
As for questions a moderator never asks, he (or she) might try these: What should government do less and we the people do more? What do you see as the constitutional limitations of government?
The tired “debate” format devised in 1960 for the televised Nixon-Kennedy meeting and made worse in the 1970s needs serious updating. Everything else has advanced. So should these political face-offs.