Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

A WEE PROPOSAL....I've got a deal to propose. Here it is: Debate moderators agree to stop asking moronic questions and presidential candidates agree to actually answer the questions they do ask. Wouldn't that be great?

And now, back to reality.....

Kevin Drum 12:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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How about if the American public demands substance from all involved. You know, as if something serious were at stake.

Posted by: Kenji on April 27, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

And bloggers quit making wee proposals that will never happen!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: treetop on April 27, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Brian Williams: "And now we come to the 'gotcha' phase of the debate."

Posted by: kc on April 27, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Someone should compile an instructional video of Bill Clinton Q&A sessions. Contrary to his reputation as a slick triangulator, he was brilliant at precisely and thoughtfully answering questions. Soundbite and talking point recitals show nothing. It is so refreshing when a candidate actually listens to what another person is saying and demonstrates that they think about the issues outside of strategy meetings.

Posted by: apm on April 27, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK
I've got a deal to propose. Here it is: Debate moderators agree to stop asking moronic questions and presidential candidates agree to actually answer the questions they do ask. Wouldn't that be great?

No, not really.

The "moronic" questions that were asked in the debate largely reflect issues that have been in the public dialogue as they have been presented in the dialogue.

Candidates pivoting from the question asked demonstrates how they respond to matters in the public sphere and how they think attention should be focussed on those issues, including where they think the question is the wrong way to approach the isuse (and when they instead jump back to unrelated questions, that tells something, too, about their priorities.)


Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Journalists and moderators are fear stricken overpaid hacks whose primary function is selling advertising. Should they attempt an hard headed analysis of issues and candidates, they would be removed from mainstream media. Corporate interests fund the candidates and rule the media. It's crazy to expect anything from a "debate" but banality and propaganda.

Posted by: Karl Marx Redux on April 27, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I share Kevin's wish, but it won't happen.

Most of you are likely too young to remember the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960. As a big Kennedy supporter, I was upset that Nixon did so much better a job of answering the questions. But, of course, JFK won the debates, thanks to his good looks and Nixon's 5 o'clock shadow. The public didn't mind JFK's failure to answer the questions.

Since then, the repeated use of sound-bites on TV makes it even more imperitive for the candidate to stick to rehearsed talking points and locutions, regardless of the questions.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 27, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

The question for all these candidates is...are they running against the media or with the media? That's the major problem. They aren't actually allowed to talk directly with people through a media that is tightly controlled and tightly formatted to dumb down any discussion of most topics.

In the rare case that a program is actually dedicated to one topic for an hour or two, what is the actual audience percentage on that particular media?

Maybe what needs to be done is for the Democrats to pick topics to debate and spend each following debate on a single topic so that they can actually reach consensus policy on issues BEFORE the Dems convention?!

Oh, if only the media would let them do that, maybe I'd actually watch. I mean, I like to watch but, really, the Internet is so much more or less informative.

Posted by: parrot on April 27, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Uncle Kevin,

We've been good. Can we have the cats now?

Posted by: thersites on April 27, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

I have a better one. What if we voters agreed to only vote for candidates who answer the questions that were asked and answer them intellegently? Maybe we could attract more intellegent and informed candidates if they actually paid a price for being stupid and evasive. Okay, I'll admit that won't really happen, but it would be nice.

Posted by: fostert on April 27, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Debate moderators agree to stop asking moronic questions

Well, first, given who is usually a moderator -- Brian Williams, I'm looking at you -- that's like asking my cat not to scratch the couch. It's just her nature.

Here's an idea: How about having political figures ask the questions rather than media? I'm thinking either you trot out good safe reasonably intelligent moderates who are no longer that active politically -- e.g., Lee Hamilton, or George Mitchell (I'm sure there must be some former Republicans who would qualify) -- or for fun, a selection of partisan firebrands from both sides. Either way, I bet it would be a more informative and interesting exchange.

Posted by: Glenn on April 27, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think they should make Larry King the official moderator. Then at least you won't be surprised with all the idiotic questions.

"So, Obama, why do you want to be president?"
"So, Hillary, what was it like being First Lady?"
"So, Johh, what was it like running for Vice President?".

See? As mindless and vapid as his show.

Then they can blather to their heart's content about anything under the sun. They do anyway.


Posted by: Joshua Norton on April 27, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

fostert on April 27, 2007 at 1:28 PM

Like Kevin says... back to reality


Glenn on April 27, 2007 at 1:28 PM

Best suggestions I've heard so far. Moderates one day, firebrands the next! Have the Repub candidates ask questions at one of the Dem debates, and vice versa.

Posted by: thersites on April 27, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Candidates pivoting from the question asked demonstrates how they respond to matters in the public sphere and how they think attention should be focussed on those issues

Good point cmdicely,
Imagine a 2000 debate question:

Q: Gov. Bush, if, during your Presidency, radical Islamic terrorists pull off another, more severe attack on the World Trade Center, how would you respond?

A: Well the real problem is Iraq. Some of those people look like they could be terrorists and Saddam turned out to be an evil dictator. When I am President I will disregard law, common sense, and any other priority to find the slightest pretext to conquer Hussein.

Posted by: apm on April 27, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK
Here's an idea: How about having political figures ask the questions rather than media? I'm thinking either you trot out good safe reasonably intelligent moderates who are no longer that active politically -- e.g., Lee Hamilton, or George Mitchell (I'm sure there must be some former Republicans who would qualify) -- or for fun, a selection of partisan firebrands from both sides.

I think a better choice (and one which would make the debates more "debates" than the kind of "semi-parallel interviews" that they often are now) would be to have each of the candidates in the debate take a turn as the questioner for the remaining candidates (you'd still have a moderator, but only to keep time, both overall and for the questions and answers.)

So, in an 8-candidate, 2 hour debate, each candidate would get 15 minutes to grill the other 7.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I actually enjoyed the "debate." I think that turning from William's stupid questions to talk about the issues that really matter was a GOOD thing.

And can we nominate questions for the most stupid? I liked the one about your "ideal" Supreme Court justice, amended to "currently serving." Man, none of those current serving are "ideal" in my view.

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 27, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like Kevin's been into the O.C. chronic again...

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on April 27, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

"I think a better choice (and one which would make the debates more "debates" than the kind of "semi-parallel interviews" that they often are now) would be to have each of the candidates in the debate take a turn as the questioner for the remaining candidates (you'd still have a moderator, but only to keep time, both overall and for the questions and answers.)"

Maybe. But not until Biden's bounced out. Have you seen that guy "ask" a "question" on any of his committees? Oy.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on April 27, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see more pushback from the candidates. Definitely not a Biden fan, but there was a better answer he could have given than "Yes." when asked if he was capable of giving a short answer to a question. He could have said. "Yes. Now do you have a real question, one that will help the American people make a good decision about the next President of the United States?"

Posted by: Joe Buck on April 27, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

chaunceyatrest: yes, one time Biden's first question went on for more than eight minutes, and he had only a ten-minute slot.

Posted by: Joe Buck on April 27, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

It would be nice if all parties, including especially the post-debate pundits, realized that the purpose of these debates is not to find out who "wins," but rather how and why the candidates differ on the issues.

Posted by: Boots Day on April 27, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

I just created a non-partisan petition that could correct the problems discussed above.

Please sign it and send it to your friends.

Posted by: TLB on April 27, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, ex-lib, lying about his past again. Yeah, of course you poseur, RMN answered the questions while JFK stood there and looked pretty. Do you really think anyone here buys your shit?

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on April 27, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Debate moderators...stop asking moronic questions ...and candidates...answer questions...

Been at the catnip again, Kevin?

Posted by: clio on April 27, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK
And can we nominate questions for the most stupid? I liked the one about your "ideal" Supreme Court justice, amended to "currently serving."

It was actually amended to "living", not "currently serving", but still, I'd have to agree that it is definitely lame.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK
Maybe. But not until Biden's bounced out. Have you seen that guy "ask" a "question" on any of his committees?

There's a reason I suggested keeping a moderator to control both the overall time (the 15-minutes per questioner) and the time for individual questions and answers.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't that be great?

Why yes, yes it would.

And if I win the lottery I can retire, too.

And could the Vikings win the Superbowl at least once before I die?

Posted by: Tripp on April 27, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal,

You rooted for Kennedy during the Kennedy-Nixon debate?!

How old are you? I consider myself pretty old and I was in Elementary school when Kennedy was assasinated - much too young to care about politics.

Are you in your 70s?

Posted by: Tripp on April 27, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

The all time stupidest question started with
"Which of our enemies, besides Iraq...."

So when did Iraq become the enemy, I thought we were only there to help (like the IRS)

Posted by: Anne Cole on April 27, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely >"I think a better choice...So, in an 8-candidate, 2 hour debate, each candidate would get 15 minutes to grill the other 7."

Outstanding idea. Just as soon as I mount a hostile takeover of FauxNoise it will be done.

Seriously I think that is a very savvy idea & one that would do wonders for moving political discussion beyond sound byte territory.

And we all know it will never happen. Next fantasy.

"Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory." - John Kenneth Galbraith

Posted by: daCascadian on April 27, 2007 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp - I am 64. Although I was 18 on the date of the Kennedy-Nixon elecition, I could not vote, since the voting age was then 21.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 28, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

"I've got a deal to propose. Here it is: Debate moderators agree to stop asking moronic questions and presidential candidates agree to actually answer the questions they do ask."

You'd get that if the League of Women Voters could be brought back into the Presidential debate process. Only, they wouldn't call it a "debate" - it's a "forum". All candidates are asked the same questions, which are submitted by audiences and synthesized by the moderator, and the audience gets to hear everyone's take. Loaded questions are screened out or modified; personal attacks in the guise of questions eliminated; fluff not even considered. These ladies (and men!) take "nonpartisanship" seriously.

Since the Democratic candidates are holding free-form debates, without the toxic intervention of the mandated Rep/Dem "debate" organization, they ought to go to the League and request that THEY host the next debate.

Seriously. Trained League moderators aren't like blow-dried TV "personalities." They're there to inform the voters, not pimp themselves and their resumes.

Posted by: Zandru on April 29, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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