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Sunday, October 07, 2012

 
A proposal to change the structure of debates

by digby

Considering the fact that the Republicans have openly admitted that they lie in presidential debates and don't care if they are fact-checked, perhaps something needs to be done to change them. Michael Froomkin has an interesting proposal:

Can something be done to prevent lying in Presidential debates? I have a simple suggestion that will greatly reduce the opportunity for lies, admitting that nothing can eradicate them completely: The moderator’s key questions on the issues should be released to the candidates and the public 48 hours in advance of the debates.

It is silly to think that the element of surprise adds value to these events. Allow the candidates to do scripted talks and then have the surprises be the back and forth as they interact and ask each other followups. Allow followups from the moderator if you trust him or her to be less milquetoast than the hapless Jim Lehrer. But if you must have surprise as to the basic questions, reduce it to a fraction of the event.

Releasing at least a substantial fraction of the questions in advance will unleash the fact-checkers on all sides. It will promote debate. It will allow campaigns to set up web sites in which they give backup for their claims. In a more perfect world than we actually have, we could aim for a week in advance, and hope that a consensus dataset would evolve in real rather than nominal dollars, but I know that is just an academic pipe dream. It won’t happen, and a week is a long time in politics anyway.

Of course, the two campaigns control the debate formats and they'll never agree. But it's just possible that if for some reason the media had a collective epiphany and decided to do their jobs, they could insist which would mean the candidates would have to choose between cancelling the debates (no great loss to the public considering what mendacious kabuki pageants they currently are) or adhering to these new rules. Scroll down to the post below to see why I am very pessimistic about that possibility.


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