Presidential debate: Imperatives for 2016


(Win McNamee/AP)

Promote Women: Assigning the town hall debate and the vice presidential debate to the only women on the moderating roster — CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC’s Martha Raddatz, respectively — was an embarrassment for America. Given the towering contributions of female journalists across all platforms, there’s no excuse for this moderator-gender chasm. A man must do the veep debate next time.

Get the Furniture Right. Although we cannot agree as a country on virtually anything the candidates say on the debate platform, we can surely agree that the sit-down format produces a more intimate, informative and entertaining session. Stop the podiums, except, perhaps, for the town hall debates. Tables should rule these debates like blue ties and red ties.

Bag the Topical Designations: Open up each debate to all themes. Imposing topical limitations on the debates — as in tonight’s foreign policy session — makes for awkward and forced sessions that may be out of step with the week’s big stories.

Put a Smash-Mouth Interviewer Front and Center: Jim Lehrer said that the idea during his much-panned performance this year was to let the candidates have at themselves. Experiment complete. Now let’s try a different one: Put a smash-mouth interviewer on the mound, someone in the mold of CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. Let no equivocation, no weak answer go unhectored.

No Lapel Pins: If the campaigns are going to write MOUs forbidding everything from audience participation to opening statements to the referencing of a “specific individual sitting in a debate audience (other than family members)” to the asking of questions by candidates to each other, then surely we can work in a lapel-pin prohibition. It should fall under the “no props” rule and would put an end to all those lapel-pin comparison tweets.

I feel like a Presidential candidate wearing more than one American flag lapel pin would be a game changer.

— Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson) October 23, 2012

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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