Third Party & Independents Archives

Lets Get Ready to Sound-Bite

With the first presidential debate just a day away, I went through the trouble of reading the much-talked-about 32 page “memorandum of understand” between the Bush and Kerry campaigns. Here are some provisions of note:


Candidates may not ask each other direct questions

Imagine the horror of a candidate having to face direct questioning from the person challenging him for the most important office in the most powerful nation in the world!

The candidates shall not address each other with proposed pledges

After all, we cannot have our candidates taking actual stands that they will later be held accountable for.

The candidate receiving the question shall be entitled to give an opening response not to exceed two (2) minutes, and thereafter the other candidate shall be permitted to comment on the question and/or the first candidate’s answer for up to one-half (1½) minutes. Thereafter the moderator in his discretion may extend the discussion for a period of time not to exceed sixty (60) seconds.

If my math is correct, the maximum time devoted to any of the incredibly important issues that are up for grabs in this election is 4 and a half minutes. Compare this to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, where each candidate spoke for at least an hour and a half.

Finally, the rest of the memorandum basically lays out of every bit of minutia about the set up of the three debates. From the look of the stage, to the placement of the cameras, to type of chairs. The detail aimed at achieving style over substance is amazing.

Earlier this year I argued that today’s presidential debates are a mockery compared to the true exchanges of ideas that took place between eminent statesmen like Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. As the “memorandum of understanding” illustrates- today's debates are merely a show, with every bit of the presentation and questioning choreographed to manipulate the viewer. With that in mind…. lets get ready to sound-bite!

Posted by Misha Tseytlin at September 29, 2004 8:23 PM