One of the reasons I find the Presidential “debates” frustrating (putting aside for the moment that they aren’t actually debates and they don’t include all the candidates) is that the candidates don’t answer the questions asked. Sarah Palin has raised this to an art form, to the point that word Palinized has been coined for avoiding the question and saying whatever you want instead.
Part of the problem is that the candidates take advantage of the press conference format of the “debates” to give partial answers and then redirect into their talking points. Part of the problem is that the questions allow them to do this and the moderators let them get away with it.
I would ask different questions and I would put each candidate on a microphone control cut off. When three out five of a panel of undecided voters decides the candidate isn’t answering the question and flicks the “cut” switch, the candidates mic is cut off and their time is up. Their done, finished, that’s it, even if they’re only 20 seconds into their answer.
What would I ask? Good first question. Here’s some of the things I would ask at a real New England style town hall meeting with Obama and McCain:
Senators, do you believe it is just and democratic for the two of you to be the only two candidates participating here this evening? And please also address the Commission on Presidential Debates – since it is a body made up of members of the Democratic and Republican national committees, how can it possibly be a fair and just arbiter of who participates in these forums?
Senators, do you favor a constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college and replacing it with a system that elects the president by popular vote?
Senators, what are your thoughts on rank choice or instant run-off voting? Do either of you even know what it is and if so could you explain it to the American people?
Senators, do you believe in the literal creation of the world in seven days as described in the beginning of the book of Genesis. Please just respond yes or no.
Senators, in your opinion has the United States engaged in the practice of torture under the Bush administration and what will your administration’s guidelines be in this area?
Senators, Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA’s Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003 has said that Americans making telephone calls from overseas have been listened in on or spied on by our own government. Is this necessary?
Senators, as president will you consider a pardon for Leonard Peltier?
Senators, will you commit America to achieving Universal, Single Payer health care?
When Senator Obama was born, his parents could not legally have been married in many states in our country because they were of different races. How is denying the right to marry to homosexuals different than denying the right to marry to people based on their race? or their religion?
Those are some of the questions I would ask, but I dont’ get to ask the questions.