Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Inviting Both Parties to the Dance

Michael Barone asks why the primary season can't include a debate among candidates of both parties. He remembers that it happened once -- in 1987:

Mr. Brokaw asked questions that were appropriate to the various candidates, so that the debate took on the aspect of an extended and well-informed conversation. He questioned Democrats and Republicans separately, during four 30-minute segments, but the format allowed candidates of one party to criticize those of the other party, which several did.

In the process viewers heard the talking points and propaganda of not just one party but of two, and the prospect that the other side would soon get its turn to speak may have deterred candidates from the kind of cheap shots which would evoke cheers from a one-party audience. My impression, which was reinforced by reading the transcript this week, is that there were fewer of these than in the debates I’ve watched this year. And viewers got more of a preview of the arguments that would be made by either side once the nominees were determined, along with some basis to measure the candidates of one party against those of the other.

I wouldn't mind eliminating debates altogether, as they have become little more than games of "gotcha" with little real illumination regarding what the candidates believe. However, if we must have debates, and it appears we must, Mr. Barone's idea is not a bad one.


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