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?