A Wee Suggestion for Debate Moderators

Some years ago, TV networks scaled way back on their live coverage of party conventions because, well, nothing much was happening at them beyond scripted and slickly produced promotional stuff. Having watched the past few presidential debates of both parties, I’m starting to wonder if the same thing might make sense for debates.

The Democratic debate in Nevada the other night was a case in point. Was it the least substantive debate of this campaign? Or maybe ever? The moderators, especially NBC’s Tim Russert, were asking some fairly direct and even hard-hitting questions, and time after time the candidates found ways sidestep them and parrot back the dozen or so words on their Coolest Words Ever Lists (TM) : health care, education, huge corporations, etc. And even they seemed bored by it.

Of course, it’s no wonder, really. It’s the easiest path, they get high-fives from their PR people backstage and they’re largely allowed to get away with it. So, moderators, here’s a respectful and handy four-word phrase to add to your note sheets.

“Please answer the question.”

– Hornseth

2 thoughts on “A Wee Suggestion for Debate Moderators

  1. bbenidt says:

    Yeah, why do supposedly tough journalists turn to mush when the national cameras are rolling?

    I’d love to see someone do what Danny Kincannon did in the West Wing TV show, our ultimate alternate political reality. Danny asked a question at a press conference, the president filibustered with blahblah words, and Danny said, “I’m sure there was an answer in there to some question, but not to mine.” And he asked his question again.

    I still advocate moderator-free debates. Just plop the candidates up there, let the cameras roll, and see what they say to one another, how they question, how they dodge, and how the others pin down the dodges. We might see something better than sound-bite greatest hits then.

  2. Maybe this is uneducated guess, but maybe they are also afraid of burning their sources by grilling them too hard. In such case I think you need someone with a, dare I say, Jack Cafferty-style mentality to ask questions and not let candidates, nominees, president, etc., B.S. their way around them. A person who simply doesn’t care if they talk to them again or not. But that is tough to find because no journalist wants to burn a bridge with a high-end source.

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