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Thursday, August 26, 2004

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  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an incumbent that was comfortable enough with their debating skills, and positions in general, to welcome the chance to take on a rival in the world of debate?

    My problem with your points, though they all are right, is that it is based solely on the fact that the President wouldn’t want to “risk” giving the public the ability to clearly hear both sides of the issues.

    Comment by Bill K — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 5:06 pm

  2. Actually, I honsetly think that weekly debates would be a waste of time. Further, they would diminish the significance of the deabtes, and likely cut down on the number of people who would actually intently watch.

    And there is an inherent risk for any incumbent in any office to cede too much time to his/her opponent.

    I find the whole “he won’t debate” dance more annoying than the lackof debates. Three strikes me as plenty.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 5:15 pm

  3. I find it absolutely hard to believe that people who are 100% for Democracy would rather see a campaign of spin, exaggerations, and ad wars, instead of one compiled of debates on the issues.

    Would you feel good if you won election not because of what you stood for, but because you were able to out slander your rival? A statesman should welcome discussion not deception.

    Comment by Bill K — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 5:53 pm

  4. Yea. I mean it’s only the president of our country, after all. Having only three debates under highly scripted formats only leads to a context free political system - a truly dangerous thing to encourage. Kind of the “fast food” of politics where we play the lightning round and pick our choice in the final jeopardy round.

    That these debates wouldn’t hold the public’s attention is largely due to the fact that they wouldn’t hold the media’s attention. And that’s because anything that isn’t soda pop and candy bores the Heathers.

    If we’re going to have a frickin’ year long political season filled with sound bite wars, dueling commercials and blood feuds from the days of Nixon, the least these campaigns can do is sit down every frickin’ week and debate.

    I’d rather be bored to death with policy wonking on a planetary scale, overdosed on information about my choices, than turned into the media equivalent of an obese diabetic from all the sugary babbles trotted out as diversions.

    Really now.

    Comment by Hal — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 6:13 pm

  5. Fair enough, I suppose. My comments wee not directed at Kerry, per se. I find it silly whenever this card is played.

    In all honesty, do you really think Kerry is serious, or is playing the standarf game?

    And, moreover, do you think weekly debates would really be of a higher quality than what we currently get (which, I will agree, really aren’t true debates).

    Perhaps if they had real debates on a weekly basis that might be worth doing, but I know that is as likely to happen as Cheney growing a full head of hair by election day. It just isn’t part of the system, and it isn’t going to be for a host of reasons.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 7:51 pm

  6. Bill,

    Are you saying that the debates don’t represent spin? And isn’t the main product of the debates nothing more than sound bites?

    Really, do you really think that weekly debates are going to transform modern campaigning? Regardless of how one feels about this process, it is rather naive to think that weekly debates will result in the flourishing of democracy.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 7:56 pm

  7. Steven, I agree with you. I don’t know how much it would change things based on the present system. And, I truly don’t know/think that Kerry is 100% genuine when he requests the debates, but that isn’t the point. The thing that angered me was once Kerry made the statement a lot of people went right after it as if open debates on the issues were bad.

    The system would turn it into spin, a good majority of the people might not watch, and the candidates might not be sincere about wanting to do it, but for the people in this country that would like to see our Presidential candidates actually lay out a plan, it would be nice to see.

    Comment by Bill K — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 8:17 pm

  8. The thing that angered me was once Kerry made the statement a lot of people went right after it as if open debates on the issues were bad.

    Actually, they have the opportunity to have “open debates on the issues” during every presidential campaign at least two or three times during televised debates. NO ONE (including Kerry) wants a real debate on the issues (complete with arguments, rebuttals and summations), because most policy debates actually extend far beyond what the public will tolerate in terms of length. Want to discuss health care reform, you’ll have to debate the virtues of a free market economy vs. a quality of life guarantee; tort reform vs. placing a price on human suffering; the nature of markets vs. subsidized price controls a la Canada.

    Such debates would be fascinating, but I think you grossly overestimate the American public’s desire for that kind of debate and the candidates’ ability to engage in that kind of debate every week.

    Finally, is there any kind of sense that either of these candidates would actually express their own measured opinions on these issues? Do you think they won’t have a team of L-D debate team captains backstage doing flow-sheets and preparing counter-arguments and rebuttals?

    How does this help?

    Comment by bryan — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 8:30 pm

  9. Let’s take this to it’s illogical extreme: President Bush should challenge Kerry to only joint appearances for the rest of the campaign. No more individual stumping. Handcuff them together from now until November. One constant debate.

    Oh, wait, Bill and Hillary tried that, and look what happened to them.

    Comment by Bill Hennessy — Thursday, August 26, 2004 @ 9:13 pm

  10. I take Steven’s point on this to heart. I think the only reason we get these sorts of silly challenges is because no incumbent in their right minds would spend the time and effort to do it. It’s an entirely empty gesture.

    I don’t think many people would want weekly debates at all. Knowing how much time and effort goes into prepping for a debate, a weekly event, even at high efficiency for the staff, means the president isn’t governing for at least 3 days out of the week. (I know, this sounds like a dream to people who don’t want Bush governing, but I’m referring to the abstract, think of it as Clinton, Kerry, LBJ, Teddy Roosevelt, whoever you like.) And that includes the debate day. My guess is it would be more like 4 days spent half paying attention to the country and half paying attention to the debate, with one full day devoted to the debate. How soon before we start hearing stories about how the president isn’t doing the job he was elected for? They already spend so much time campaigning now that I’m not sure adding more is going to do much of anything.

    Being slightly partisan for a moment, Bill K, let’s not forget that Bush did pretty well in the debates against Gore, and has a long history of being a strong opponent in such forums. If there’s one thing I don’t think Bush is, it’s nervous about his own abilities in front of a crowd. After all, isn’t this the president who’s so incredibly smug and self-assured that he doesn’t have to listen to anyone else? The Texas Cowboy backing down from a fight because of self-doubt? I’m not a cheerleader for the guy, believe me, but that doesn’t seem to fit the profile at all. I think it has a great deal more to do with what Steven said: ceding that much time to the opponent only helps the opponent.

    Personally, the kind of debate I’d welcome is one along the Lincoln-Douglas kind. Get the candidates to spell out there ideas with a bit more time, then allow a much longer time for rebuttal. I tend to think the attention span of the populace is at least partiallyt driven by the attention span of the media. We’ve gotten used to debates with 3 minute rebuttals because the networks want to fit it in between talking heads and Seinfeld reruns. That kind of thing just fosters debate on the level of “Unlike my opponent, my plans don’t include eating babies and killing puppies while in office. I’m the one who will heal the sick, stop aging, and bring prosperity to the world by…” I’m betting people could handle political debate with more than just soundbites if the media would let it happen. But more of the kind of debates we have now just sounds painful…

    Comment by Ian — Friday, August 27, 2004 @ 7:49 am

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