Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Debate Over Debates

Today the Barack McCain and John Obama campaigns released a joint statement that officially announcing the debate dates (although they've been known for a while). The debates will be sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a group that is bipartisan and nonprofit, but activist and author George Farah wrote an entire book, called No Debate, making the case against the CPD:
The CPD is not the honorable institution it claims to be. In fact, the CPD is a corporate-funded, bipartisan cartel that secretly awards the control of the presidential debates to the Republican and Democratic candidates, perpetuating the domination of a two-party system and restricting subject matters of political discourse. Through the CPD, the Republican and Democratic candidates exclude popular third-party candidates, eliminate challenging debate formats, and avoid addressing many important national issues. The presidential debates become exchanges of sound bites rather than exchanges of ideas. The CPD represents the Republican and Democratic nominees, not the American people.

While I'd say that Farah is probably on the extreme end of those advocating the democratization of debates--he argues that third-party candidates like Ross Perot and Ralph Nader should be allowed into debates--current rules state a third-party candidate must be polling above 15 percent nationally to make it into the debate, making it nearly impossible for them to get in. I'm not overly interested in making sure Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, or Ron Paul are included in the debates this year, but I think Farah does make some good points about the lack of real back-and-forth at the general election debates.

This Nightline video from 2004 summarizes some of the great debate moments of the past---and talks about how we're not likely to see anything like them in the future.

Cross posted at pushback.

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