No, we don’t need more media sponsored debates, with their gotchas and lack of substance.
And, no, we don’t need the unmoderated no-holds-barred debate format Hillary Clinton is proposing. It might be interesting, but it would likely quickly break down into total anarchy, which could be very bad for the Democratic Party. (What Hillary is proposing, by the way, has nothing to do with the format of the original Lincoln-Douglas Debates, despite the fact that’s how she’s describing it.)
But here’s a debate I’d go for — even after 21 others: An “open book test” debate with all the questions disclosed up front.
Here’s how it would work: the debate would last 90 minutes and be made up of eight questions, with each candidate getting five minutes to speak (yes, that long might get boring but this is supposed to be about substance): the last 10 minutes would be taken up with five minute closing statements (sorry, ABC, but no commercial breaks this time).
The eight questions would be settled upon well in advance: the goal wouldn’t be to test the candidates’ ability to respond on the spur-of-the-moment. We’ve seen enough of that already. What voters need now is a better appreciation of where the candidates stand on the important issues of the day: something — thanks to the miserable nature of the major media’s coverage of this campaign — many voters still lack.
Here’s my suggestion for the questions:
1. How, as president, would you each go about getting the United States out of Iraq?
2. Set forth in detail your plans for addressing global warming.
3. What would each of you do during your first 100 days in office to address the current economic crisis?
4. Economic inequality is at record levels in this nation. Economic growth in recent years hasn’t been shared by all Americans, but has tended mostly to benefit the wealthiest in our society: Do you consider this to be a problem that should be addressed by the government and if so how?
5. Please describe in detail what your governing philosophy would be as president in deciding when to send American troops into combat? Describe in particular how that philosophy would apply to nations like Iran, Syria and North Korea.
6. You have both been critical of certain aspects of the Bush tax cuts. What specific changes would you propose and why? Please describe more generally what you taxation policy would be?
7. There is concern over politicization of the Department of Justice. What concrete steps would you take as president to be certain that the Department would never be used as a political weapon? Also, what steps, if any, would you take to investigate prior alleged misconduct?
8. Each of you has expressed disapproval of at least parts of the No Child Left Behind law. What specific changes would you propose? And more generally, in what ways do you believe the federal government can best play a role in improving the quality and availability of educational opportunity at all levels?
Yeah, that would be a debate I’d be willing to tune in for. And for those who can’t get over their nostalgia for Rev. Wright and Bosnia sniper fire, well, there are plenty of clips from earlier debates posted on the web.
But not this time: this debate would be all substance from start to finish.
Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?