ENOUGH of GOP 'Debates' Where Mediots Show Us How Tough They Are

-By Warner Todd Huston

In the upcoming Republican primary I am not voting for Brian Williams, Brett Baier, Scott Pelly, Wolf Blitzer or any other member of the Old Media. I am trying to figure out which Republican nominee for president I might want to support. So why has every so-called debate featured mediots trying to prove to their mediots pals how tough they can be on Republican candidates instead of the Republican candidates actually debating each other?

Lately every one has been harkening back to those Lincoln-Douglass-styled debates of yesteryear and there is a reason that the famous debates between GOP Senate candidate Abe Lincoln and incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglass held over 150 years ago come so easily to mind. It’s because we aren’t getting that these days!

What we are getting instead are media personalities trying to make reputations for themselves instead of debates that tell us what the GOP candidates know, if they can articulate it, and if they can defend same.

I wish the candidates would stop going to these worthless excuses for debates forthwith. We need real debates and that means substance. The candidates should stop worrying that they might look “afraid” to debate and demand some format changes for any future outings before they show up again.

I am not saying we don’t need a moderator, of course. There should be one but his only job should be to keep the candidates on time, civil, and on topic. But he should ask no questions and should not interpose himself into the proceeding as if he were a participant. We don’t need to hear if the moderator thinks he’s as smart as the candidates.

Yes, instead of media personality showcases let’s have real debates. Single subject debates featuring all the candidates above 2% in the polls — meaning we don’t have to bother with Huntsman. Such debates would feature a single topic, such as foreign policy, economic policy, and the like. Each candidate would get 10 minutes to expound upon his vision of the topic at hand. Then that candidate would stand as the other candidates (not some mediots) questions him on his presentation.

In this format we’d see what candidate could present a coherent platform or series of policies. We’d see if that candidate could defend his ideas in the face of questions from his competitors. We’d get something else, too. We’d see if those competitors could listen to a presentation, think on their feet about it, and then offer critiques and ask questions upon that which they just heard.

We’d see if the candidates asking the questions are on topic, if they are combative, thoughtful, or absurd. We’d see if the candidate presenting his policies could withstand questions, if he could think on his feet while answering them, if he is dismissive or angers easily.

Will we get a lot of talking points? Probably, but if those talking points can’t stand up to the scrutiny of his fellow candidates, they won’t stand up with the voters.

Focusing on one topic per debate would allow Americans to take a fuller measure of their candidates and what they might want to do about these issues. The listeners and viewers could get a better feel for these candidates without getting distracted by a confusing series of topics that are unrelated and disparate.

But the best thing is that the media’s gotcha campaign would be left behind, a distraction that, as Newt Gingrich has been saying over and over again, has all too often overshadowed the candidates.


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  • Hear, hear.

  • Very good suggestions!

    First and foremost, the moderator needs to make sure that the candidate actually ANSWERS the question. No avoidance. No deflection. No "my opponent says..." The candidate needs to state his/her answer and sell it to the viewers. The moderator needs to make sure that there is an answer and not another speech.

    I particularly agree with you about measuring a candidate on his/her ability to think on his/her feet. We don't need to hear the regurgitation of talking points, we need to see the process this person uses to solve problems. Is the candidate capable of critical thinking?

    Unfortunately, I disagree with you about Huntsman. Aside from Romney, he appears to be the only one who isn't so mired in ideology and rehearsed (or poorly-rehearsed) in talking points that he CAN actually think on his feet and demonstrate a keen ability to solve problems. If the answer the problem calls for doesn't involving tossing red meat to the base, he is the only one willing to deliver it.

    If the GOP wants to defeat Obama, it needs to move to the center to appeal to the Independent voters. A motivational speaker, another swaggering C student, a strict Libertarian, a crusader to reinstate DADT, and an obedient, un-empathetic evangelical wife don't relate well to middle-of-the-road Americans. The GOP needs a smart, well-spoken leader who not only looks presidential, but responds thoughtfully and pragmatically to issues that arise.

    Right now you have a three-ring circus with all but one guy trying to out-Conservative the others. End the side show and start asking tough questions to complicated problems. Let the people see who is even capable of answering without a speechwriter whispering in an earpiece...

  • Huntsman may be the only capable candidate there, but by all means, would love to see them wrangle through the issues without moderation. In reality, the party is really doing itself a disservice by supporting all these debates. Much like the IL R party, they do more to get the Democrat elected than anything constructive. Look forward to Mr. Obama returning to office for a second term with 47% of the vote due to a 3rd party candidate and tea party "principles" that refuse to back Mr. Romney.

  • So that explains why these GOP candidates look so pathetic. It's those 'mediots'. By the way, Huntsman is the only one with any intellectual bona fides.

  • I figured that something was fishy when the first debate was sponsored by "CNN/The Tea Party." I guess I'll leave at at my previous comment about the kind of "press" Perry got and the first sentence.

    One of the talking head shows over the weekend mentioned whether Obama and the eventual Republican opponent should have a true "Lincoln/Douglas" debate with no prompters, and apparently without the staged questions, but the consensus was that neither could get through that.

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