Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Having watched all three debates so far, I've been giving some thought to what might be the best way for voters to learn where the candidates stand on issues, and what plans they have to address problems facing our country. I don't think the current formats even come close to helping us make informed decisions. I'm frustrated that we hear the same talking points in the "debate" format as we do listening to stump speeches. I suggest the following ideas for your comment.

Format #1: Each candidate will run a town hall meeting, without the other candidate present. They will not be televised live, but back to back after both events conclude. This way, one campaign cannot capitalize on knowing what happened at the other candidate's event. Freeflowing questions from citizens, with a moderator whose only role is to assist the citizens in keeping the candidate on point. The moderator has no role as a questioner...only to make sure the candidate doesn't evade the question and move back to standard talking points. Meeting attendees should be identified as undecided voters.

Another rule: candidates are forbidden from saying the name of their opponent, saying the words "my opponent", or otherwise alluding to their opponent in any way. We want to hear the candidates talk about themselves, with no potshots against their opponent. (Might actually be a nice rule for campaign ads, too!). This rule will apply to every debate format.

Format #2: Candidates are interviewed separately by a neutral party, agreed upon by both campaigns. The two candidates will be asked the same exact questions and given the same amount of time to answer the questions. The interviewer may ask one followup question as desired for any question. No questions can be about the opponent. The interview questions will be written by the interviewer. Both interviews will be taped, and then aired back to back, in an order determined by a coin toss.

Format #3: The two candidates sit at a table with a moderator. Based on a coin toss, one candidate will open by asking the other a question. The responder will have a specified amount of time to answer. The questioner will be permitted one follow up question, if desired. The questions can be on any topic, and each candidate may change the questions on the fly if desired. Each candidate will ask the same number of questions. The only role of the moderator is to monitor the time.

I know these ideas have challenges and flaws. But perhaps they will stir up a conversation that will generate better ideas. Almost anything would be better than what we've seen so far. We need a way to hear about issues from each candidate without all of the "noise" caused by mud-slinging, pre-written talking points, and distracting intervention by moderators.

What do you think?

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