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Thursday, January 16, 2014

How to ensure political debates are fair?


I was browsing through my morning list of blogs that I follow, when I clicked on THE OTHER McCAIN. The story is about Ed Schultz's assertion that Republicans are afraid of him and won't talk to him. Ann Coulter called him out on Twitter and shortly thereafter Rosanne Barr jumped into the fray.

Wouldn't it be great to watch Ann Coulter demolish Ed Schultz or Rosanne Barr? We all know that in a fairly moderated debate she could, too. The problem is that it wouldn't be fairly moderated. The audience would be packed with lefties who'd laugh for long minutes after the lamest Rosanne Barr wisecrack or Ed Schultz comeback. The cameras would pan around showing gleeful liberal audience members acting worse than a troop of baboons just handed a whole bunch of bananas. As the laughter finally died down, the moderator would promptly change the subject. Shut the conservative down. Laugh him out. Interrupt as often as necessary. Try to rattle him, make him come unglued. Throw the conservative off his game. That is the essence of every mainstream media debate between a conservative and a liberal.

The liberal debater, the moderator, and the audience are all on the same team, meanwhile the conservative is all by him- or herself. When the conservative is on point, making his point, or defending his point, it's the moderator's and the liberal debater's job to interrupt and knock him off his stride. At times when the facts and the logic are clearly and inarguably on the side of the conservative, the interruptions and antics from the other side are almost like a tag-team filibuster.
Although the question of who won the second presidential debate itself remains up for debate, a newly released study is declaring President Obama champion of what it calls the “interruption debate.”

The study by Chapman University and the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University finds Mitt Romney was interrupted 59 times during the debate [October 16, 2012] by either Obama or moderator Candy Crowley of CNN.

Obama was interrupted 43 times during the 90-minute debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

“President Obama may have benefited in the short run by adopting a much more aggressive style,” said Robert Lichter, president of the nonprofit, non-partisan organization. “But so many interruptions push the boundaries of civility in political debate.”
Romney is an experienced debater and after he'd spent a year or more debating other presidential hopefuls in the Republican primaries, he had certainly sharpened his debating skills. He showed that during this Candy Crowley moderated debate. He gave as good as he got, interrupting both Obama and Crowley repeatedly. But when it's two against one, you just know it isn't going to go the way the loner hopes it will.

When we watch it at home it's like a train wreck happening and we're powerless to affect it. The TV audience can hoop and holler, whistle and shout their approbation, dissatisfaction, and outrage, but those of us at home just have to sit there and seethe impotently and furiously as our candidate is beaten-up by some tag-team travesty of a moderated debate.

Have you ever heard of Godwin's Law? In any heated on-line debate, as the thread gets longer, the probability of a Hitler or Nazi reference approaches certainty. When this happens the debate is over and the one who brought up Hitler or Nazis is declared the loser. There should be some common sense rules like this for debates. If you play spades and habitually underbid, you're penalized for sand-bagging. It's in the rules. If you're in a political race and your debating style is habitual interruption, after sufficient interruptions, your microphone ought to be shut-off, kind of like the way a two- three- or even five-minute hockey penalty works.

Isn't that a great idea? There could be an incorruptible organization—perhaps with special uniforms—who referee our nation's most important debates. They would be valued for their absolute attention to rules and scoring and would never take sides.

Do you find it odd that millions of dollars are spent every year paying impartial referees to ensure that ultimately meaningless sporting events are played fairly according to the rules, yet for something as important as government election races which are so absolutely and fundamentally necessary for the well-being of the country, we have nothing? There are no referees, umpires, linesmen, etc., in politics. Instead we have the mainstream media, and that's like letting Jimmy Fallon umpire a Red Sox game!

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