A couple of thoughts about debates and moderators, both of which are coming in for a ton of criticism right now—
I think last night, as awful as it was to behold, demonstrated precisely why we need debates in our democracy. Candidates run to serve the people, and debates... 1/
...debates are moments where ostensibly they submit to not be in charge, to follow the rules, to answer the questions posed to them and to be judged accordingly if they fail to do that. Candidates, even incumbents, aren’t above this. 2/
Debates are also moments where voters get to compare candidates side by side, and on their own. No other forum really does that, and that’s still important. 3/
#ChrisWallace has come in for a lot of criticism from people who say things like “he should have enforced the rules,” or “they should have just turned off the president’s mic” or “he’s biased against the president.” I disagree. Wallace worked incredibly hard. 4/
Anyone who has ever moderated a debate understands that and understands what a tough, impossible position Wallace was in. If a debater won’t respect the rules, the format, the moderator, or his opponent, what recourse do you actually have? 5/
Wallace was in a role less journalistic and more akin to a parent trying to address a teenager’s misbehavior, a teen who thinks the rules don’t apply to him. And he had to do what parents have to do—raise his voice, remind his ward of the rules he agreed to. 6/
Turning off a candidate’s mic is not a viable option. When that has happened accidentally, news orgs have gotten into huge trouble. A sound engineer can’t be expected to ride the levels like that, and nor could a news director make calls in real time in a meaningful way. 7/
Do debates need to be better? Yes. The format they chose for last night, 2 minutes each followed by conversation, was a great idea. It still is, and it would be nice to see it tested by candidates interested in truly engaging. 8/
But in order to have better debates, we need candidates who see them as opportunities and duties, not as burdens or cage matches. And those candidates need campaign staff who share that understanding, not political arsonists.
That’s all for now. 9/9
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