Newt Backs a Cage Match

I hate agreeing with Newt Gingrich.

Newt says the format for presidential debates is silly. The Democrats proved it a couple of days ago and the Republicans will prove it Tuesday night again.

“How can you explain what you’re going to do about health care in 30 seconds?” Newt asks. He advocates sitting the two main-party candidates — once they’re chosen — down in a room for 90 minutes to cover one subject with no moderator and no journalists. A week or so later, another topic, another 90 minutes.

I’ve said this for years — can the time limits and the rules and just lock people in a room with a TV camera and see how they treat one another, what they say, how they get their ideas across and how much they really know. A windbag like Joe Biden or a knowledge-impaired front man like George W would show his true colors if left to just talk and answer challenges from opponents.

Newt’s idea of dumping the journalists is intriguing. They supposedly ask tough questions and followups, but in truth they don’t pin candidates down or require specifics or proof. Journalists posture as much as candidates, so it would be fun to see what happens without them.

Debates as currently structured are just sound bite parades, about as substantive a way of communicating who a candidate is as a TV ad. A no-rules encounter would show us who’s polite and humane, who’s an air hog, who can inspire, who has something to offer.

Right now it’s kind of fun to see the fringe folks lob a grenade or two, because they’ll ask some impertinent questions, but pretty soon the Ron Pauls should sit down. Once the herd is thinned, let’s just make people sit down together and go at it. Any candidate who’s too chicken to have a real encounter would, I hope to God, lose votes because of it.

The real question is — once the hugely deluded Newt gets in the race (where is the groundswell for a junior-college professor with ethics infractions?), would he abide by his own suggestion?

— Benidt

6 thoughts on “Newt Backs a Cage Match

  1. I think he’s certainly sharp enough to play by his own suggested rules. But his suggestion is missing part of the point: We can’t just put the two major party candidates in a room when we need to first figure out who those people should be. I’m not saying the current pre-primary debate setup is ideal, by any means, but nor is Newt’s suggestion in this case.

    Also, I don’t like the idea of further solidifying the “two major party” bullshit. We might still be a ways aways (is that a Minnesota phrase?) from having a really high-ranking libertarian or something, but damn it, why force-feed this one-or-the-other, “me or her and that’s it” trash?

  2. Dave Jackson says:

    My favorite part of the debates is where the moderator asks the candidates to raise their hands if they’re in favor/opposed to a certain issue. The fringe candidates always act decisively and the front-runners are busy looking at their competitors. Should I be keeping a scorecard so I know who believes what?

    I’m hoping just once that the moderator says, “Raise your hand if you need to go to the bathroom.”


  3. Lurker says:

    I’d prefer moderation by randomly chosen, interested registered voters who give a damn. Pick three or five out of a hat and let them ask their burning questions and drill down on issues until satisifed and then agree to move on to the next topic. It would be a mini townhall forum that would still foster a few knife fights and fistacuffs among candidates who were willing to put their necks out on the line.

  4. GOP Man says:

    Trash Newt if you must, but he is the only candidate in either party with new ideas.

    Journalists add nothing to the discourse. They’re too hell bent on landing ‘gotchcha’s.’

    Two chairs arount a coffee table and 90 minutes of airtime would be a huge improvement over so-called “debates.” This model is easily replicated to include a wide variety of one-on-ones.

  5. John Reinan says:

    “A parade of sound bites” — absolutely right. This has been a bee in my bonnet for a long time. Why do we persist in calling these dog-and-pony shows “debates,” when they so clearly are nothing of the kind?

    P.S. I count only several cliches in that sentence.

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