Wisdom of the Ages

Politics and policy as unusual - tested by time and maturity

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Location: Iona, Southwest Florida, United States

I am an unapologetic conservative. My opinions have been formed by decades of observation of human myopia.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Real Debates vs. Carnivals of Questions

I've been thinking a lot about the upcoming Presidential debates. I know we will have them. It seems, however, that the last round during the primaries has been somewhere between misleading and unhelpful.

Here is a proposal:

Instead of moderators who ask questions (usually loaded to reflect their biases and agendas), let's have one "facilitator/referee".

Let's give each candidate a prescribed amount of time within the debate to discuss important problems. For example, let's say the debate is one hour long. It would be divided into three minute segments alternated between candidates, with four segments being devoted to a subject area. The full hour would have five 12-minute subject periods.

At the beginning of each subject segment, the facilitator would introduce the general subject, not phrased as a question but objectively. Such as "Immigration policy", "Energy policy", "Economic policy" "the Middle East", "Military policy" "Homeland Security", etc.

Each candidate would be allowed up to three minutes to tell us what they think the problem is and how they would solve it. Who is first up would be decided by flipping a coin. The second candidate would get three minutes to expound on his or her ideas. which could include a rebuttal of the comments by the preceding speaker on that subject.

To keep it civil, candidates who exceed their three minute allotment would have the length of their overage deducted from their next three-minute segment. No exceptions. If one runs three seconds long, instead of being allowed three minute next time up, that candidate would be allowed two minutes and 57 seconds.

The other rule enforced by the facilitator would be a penalty in time equal any time one candidate spends encroaching on the time of the other candidate by talking over him or her.

The result would be to give each candidate three uninterrupted minutes (twice) to discuss each subject.

We would learn how the candidates think on their feet, without being caught in "gotcha" questions designed for 15-second sound bite answers.

We would learn what they really think about the subject, not what a moderator forces them to think.

Obviously, there are other considerations, such as how to keep a candidate on topic. Again, the public will know when a candidate has skipped or skirted a subject, and can use their judgment to reward or punish such behavior.

In the end, the audience - which is smart enough to figure out who is substantial and who is blowing smoke on any subject - would be armed with real intelligence and understanding of where each candidate stands.



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