No debate

Think the Presidential debates will help undecided voters who they should elect? Some excerpts from the contract signed by both parties to govern the debate format:

This Memorandum of Understanding constitutes an
agreement between Kerry-Edwards, ’04, Inc. and Bush-Cheney, ’04,
Inc. (the “campaigns”) regarding the rules that will govern
debates in which the campaigns participate in 2004.

Neither film footage nor video footage nor any audio
excerpts from the debates may be used publicly by
either candidate’s campaign through any means,
including but not limited to, radio, television,
internet, or videotapes, whether broadcast or
distributed in any other manner.

The candidates may not ask each other direct
questions, but may ask rhetorical questions.

No question shall be asked of a candidate by the
moderator if less than six (6) minutes remain in the
scheduled time of the debate.

…the moderator shall: open and close the debate and enforce all time
limits. In each instance where a candidate
exceeds the permitted time for comment, the
moderators shall interrupt and remind both the
candidate and the audience of the expiration of
the time limit and call upon such candidate to
7
observe the strict time limits which have been
agreed upon herein by stating, “1 am sorry…
[Senator Kerry or President Bush as the case may
be]…your time is up”

There shall be no audience participation in the
September 30 and October 13 debates. After the start of each
debate and in the event of and in each instance whereby an
audience member(s) attempts to participate in the debate by any
means thereafter, the moderator shall instruct the audience to
refrain from any participation in the debates as described in
section 9(a) (viii) below.

During the extended discussion of a question, no
candidate may speak for more than thirty (30) seconds.

The moderator shall manage the debate so that the
candidates address at least sixteen (16) questions.

The October 8 debate will be conducted in an audience
participation (“town hall”) format. This debate shall be
governed by the rules set forth in section 5 and the following
additional rules:

  • The audience members shall not ask follow-up questions
    or otherwise participate in the extended discussion,
    and the audience member’s microphone shall be turned

    off after he or she completes asking the question.
  • Prior to the start of the debate, audience members
    will be asked to submit their questions in writing to
    the moderator.
  • The moderator shall approve and
    select all questions to be posed by the audience
    members to the candidates.
  • Each question selected will be asked by the
    audience member submitting that question. If any
    audience member poses a question or makes a statement
    that is in any material way different than the
    question that the audience member earlier submitted to
    the moderator for review, the moderator will cut-off
    the questioner and advise the audience that such nonreviewed
    questions are not permitted.

A signed contract for a debate? I was completely floored by a recent PBS NOW report on how these debates operate. During the last Presidential election, I was convinced Gore would completely destroy “W” in the three debates. Some years before, Gore had debated Perot on Larry King one day and just ripped him to shreds. I thought there was no way “W” was going to keep up with him. After Gore’s lack luster performance in the 2000 debates, I chalked it up to his advisors wanting a kinder, gentler Gore fearing a confrontational debate would lose him votes.

Well, it turns out that neither party wants confrontational debates. Most questions are known by the candidates before hand. Did you ever wonder why candidates only get 30-90 seconds to respond to one another? They want to get across ideas in neat sound bits. The debates have effectually turned into staged press conferences by both of the candidates. Ever wonder why the League of Women Voters don’t sponsor that debates any longer? Because they wouldn’t bow down to the parties wanting to control the questions in the debates. So the “non partisan” Commission On Presidential Debates was formed by the Republican and Democratic parties to fill the void. Back room deals now abound. The debates are also corporate sponsored. Shouldn’t they be citizen spornsored?

On the NOW program, Bill Moyers interviewed a young guy by the name of George Farah who published a recent book, No Debate. He also runs the organization Open Debates. It was exciting to see such a passionate young person advocating for change. There’s still a few out there!

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