Would a real debate be too much to ask for?

This article pretty much sums up my frustration with the dueling infomercials last night mistakenly sold to the public as a debate.

In February, during a CNN-sponsored Republican primary debate, nearly all the candidates ignored a question put to them by John King. It’s an old trick. He had asked each of them to come up with an example of a misconception voters might hold about his candidacy. Rather than answer, most went straight to some favored talking point on America’s greatness or President Obama’s failures, reading from the teleprompters in their heads. When King finally called Mitt Romney on this, reminding him of the original question, Romney shot back: “You know, you get to ask the questions you want. I get to give the answers I want. Fair enough?”

Both parties do this. But moderators need to break this dodgeball tradition. The answer to Romney’s question needs to be “no.

Ed Brayton’s post from last night also captured it beautifully.

Well I was wrong about one thing. I predicted that Democrats would think Obama won and Republicans would think Romney won. But the Democrats seem mostly to agree that Obama did very badly. I could only watch about 10 or 15 minutes of it before it became absolutely obvious that the format was terrible and Lehrer was so far out of his depth he might as well have been in an ocean trench. As usual, lots of lies and empty rhetoric and no one calling them out for it or challenging anything. Is this really the way we pick our leaders? Because it’s fucking ridiculous.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Art Vandelay

    When we finally destroy ourselves due to our disdain for critical thinking, I think the defining moment to look back on will be when we went through an entire presidential campaign and election where one of the candidates believed that his underwear is sacred and he never had to answer a single question about it.

  • RuQu

    We still have presidential debates because tradition says we should. Only 36% of undecided voters had any interest in watching compared to 53-55% of committed Republicans and Democrats. And undecided voters don’t tend to be very informed, or else they wouldn’t be undecided at this point with such radically different candidates.

    Given that none of that is surprising, what was the debate for besides entertainment? Can we fault them for thinking what they said or the truth didnt matter? (Yes, but it doesnt matter).

  • Baal

    I shut it off without regret about 25 minutes. It was clear the candidates were doing stump recitals and that Romney was winning presentation. Obama needs to be less inhibited on the next go. From the various reviews, it doesn’t look like I missed anything for having missed a good portion of the show.

  • valleycat1

    What can you expect when the moderator announces there are literally only 3 minutes left on the clock, so each candidate has 1.5 minutes to discuss how they’ll solve the nation’s deficit problem (I think that was the final issue of the day, or it was something of similar scope). Why not table that looming major issue to the next debate & give them 90 seconds longer for the wrap-up? Both sides in the entire debate were painful to watch, and I found myself doubting all the comments they stated as fact, which according to Politico were, at best, only partially true.

  • http://irrelevantjaunt.wordpress.com/ crookedmongoose

    I watched the whole thing (mostly for a class on persuasion and social influence) and I came away less disappointed in Obama’s presentation than the people who watched CNN and the other talking heads. Speaking as someone who has actually taught speech and coached debate, they weren’t that different.

    As for the lies, I went to my beloved factcheck.org – by my count, Romney is beating Obama almost two to one on the lying front. I would rather have seen less “hey, this is my zinger! whoopee!” moments and more discussions of actual facts and plans…but I knew what I was tuning in to.