Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

What would my debate look like?

1) No interrupting by either the moderator(s) or the other candidate.

2) A townhall-ish format, where the participants are chosen (half and half to each candidate) via a lottery and they are required to have a question. Then their questions are chosen at random. (vetting for boxer or brief questions would be nice)

3) When discussing policy like health care and education, the candidates have three to five minutes to describe their program, and why it is better. Then there is a two-minute rebuttal time for each.

4) Both candidates have time for opening and closing remarks that will last three minutes each.

5) Limited commercial interruption.

Drew Haile

Henderson, Ky

Apr 22 2008 - 3:41pm

Web Letter

It took genuine courage for Senator Obama to seize the moment--in real-time, in front of millions of citizens--to tell the "interviewers" how inappropriate their tawdry tabloid tactics really were. How gratifying to see Nation columnists signing onto the journalists' letter of protest to ABC, and how dismaying--though unsurprising--to see (as of April 21) not a single name representing the networks or, for that matter, the NY Times or Washington Post. Gibson and Stephanopoulos do us the service of demonstrating what we should expect from the mainstream media.

Neil Elliott

White Bear Lake, MN

Apr 22 2008 - 12:09am

Web Letter

A real debate would consist of policy experts from across the spectrum asking the candidates or their advisors to defend their policy proposals. Instead of a series of general questions, the debate questions would focus on specific flaws in the policies and try to determine what they do if things don't go as planned. It's important that the experts come from across the spectrum rather than involving people who are on the same basic side. A debate like that doesn't have to be a big production, especially if the candidates themselves don't take part and it's uploaded in video form to a video-sharing site with a transcript provided. In fact, that's something that The Nation could put on, if they want to see what a real debate is like. Details here.

Chris Kelly

Los Angeles, CA

Apr 21 2008 - 7:35pm

Web Letter

It appears that most of the previous comments came from folks who are unaware of the 469 previous Democratic debates that were held over the past year.

There has been some substantive debate interspersed between too many puff questions throughout the campaign season; thank god someone found some new ground to cover.

Worse yet is that this criticism of the moderators seems to be nothing less than bald-faced attempts to intimidate, muzzle and censor ideas and information that may finally dispel the messianic aura around Obama. If you are an Obama supporter, then you really should be thankful that these types of issues can be exposed now and dealt with, rather than at the eleventh hour of a campaign, when the ability to respond might be limited or unavailable.

Ask Obama supporters why they are supporting him and you get a wide variety of answers, many of which are nebulous or conceptual. These lofty expectations are sure to disappoint if Obama wins without thorough scrutiny.

Lighten up, free your mind and recognize that those who want to limit the discussion to certain topics that are OK with them don't approve of each one of us making up our own minds--they want to make it up for us.

And if you want real change in DC, replace the Congresspersons of either party who have been there more than eight years. They are the ones who maintain the status quo more than anything or anyone else.

Jonathon Guild

Wheaton, IL

Apr 21 2008 - 7:34pm

Web Letter

With all the serious issues facing this nation and all the dangers stalking our future, we cannot allow ourselves to be sidetracked by small-minded individuals and short-sighted news organizations. If we refuse to grow up and start facing the important issues in an open-minded and level-headed way, it will be at our own peril.

This is our defining moment. The actions we take in the coming months will echo for decades to come. With feeble and misguided news media, how can a disconnected populous ever reconnect? It was our persistent lack of clarity that allowed an under-qualified man of average intelligence to be elected to the White House for two terms. Unfortunately, this tragic error ended up costing the lives of 4,000 US soldiers and countless Iraqis.

"The rich and the well-born have learned how to dance with the dirty dancers. These dirty dancers have created in Washington, DC, and in every capital city in America a government of the money, by the money and for the money, and this circumstance will soon deprive us all of the blessings of liberty."   --John Jay Hooker

The stakes are far too high. A swift return to common sense, decency and reason is now our only option. I repeat: A swift return to common sense, decency and reason is now our only option.

Steve Ford

Las Vegas, NV

Apr 21 2008 - 5:09pm

Web Letter

The character of the man or woman who would be President matters a great deal. So while isolated incidents that raise the eyebrows of voters and pundits may not initially be worth pursuing, when a pattern develops, those incidents are worthy of journalistic pursuit.

Re Mrs Clinton, the Bosnia incident played into the storyline so well illustrated by Christopher Hitchen's book, No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family.

Re Mr Obama, his attitude toward the country he seeks to lead has become suspect because of a series of incidents. And while some may seem trivial when considered alone (how he stands during the Pledge, why he won't wear a flag lapel), when viewed in context with his very close association with a man who says "God Damn America," his much less significant association with an unrepentant bomber (imagine if it was not Mr. Ayers but Mr. Rudolph, the abortion clinic bomber), a comment where he essentially called many of the Joe Six-pack Democrats bigots (and did it with elitist-sounding language), and even a wife who has suggested less than love for her country--all of these incidents have formed a narrative that journalists should explore. Sure as shootin', the GOP groups are going to explore the narrative big time come fall.

Doug Miller

Lansing, MI

Apr 21 2008 - 4:19pm

Web Letter

Mrs. Clinton has a hearing defect. When Mr. Obama says something, she thinks he said something else and she attacks that.

While she makes no points attacking Mr. Obama, she does reveal herself to all of us. We are learning what kind of person she is.

Now comes this latest debate, and we learn nothing that helps us decide who to vote for for President, but perhaps a lot about some of the journalists that would influence us.

Rather than asking Mr. Obama to defend himself against false charges, why don't they quiz Clinton about making them in the first place or perhaps, heaven forbid, explain why they are abetting falsehoods by not asking?

If I were falsely charged with murder and everyone knows it, I'll still have to defend myself, but that is no reason for the "News" to ignore that the charge is false to start with.

ABC sponsors journalists that ignore the obvious. Surely a big business like this wouldn't hire fools to represent them. So what was the purpose of this debate and the questions asked?

CNN, MSN and Fox do the same thing. Don't expect ABC to change. They know what they are doing.

Greg Donoho

Honolulu, Hawaii

Apr 21 2008 - 3:22pm

Web Letter

What are the real facts about the impact of lower or higher capital gains tax rates? Gibson was emphatic in his assertion that historically lower rates always mean more revenue and higher rates mean less. If this is not true or less than fully true, then the facts should be known and ABC should be called to account for disinformation of the meanest sort--through loaded questioning of the candidates.

Otherwise, I agree fully with the journalists' open letter to ABC. I could not help wondering if Rupert Murdock had somehow managed to buy out the network overnight and George and Charlie boys were pandering to the new boss at every possible turn. Please tell me it isn't so and that we do not have another FOX New--but just good old Disney doing its business to sell us more junk.

Harlan H. Hobgood

Avila Beach, CA

Apr 21 2008 - 1:18pm

Web Letter

Senator Clinton (though I don't support her) actually lost a great chance to gain votes during the strangely scripted ABC debate. All she needed to do, after a couple of questions, would have been to say: "George and Charles, neither Senator Obama or myself or the American people benefit from these kinds of questions. Can we please move on to a more substantive debate?" It would have been a stellar moment for her and her campaign, no doubt taking back some high ground from Obama. Her failure to do so sadly reinforces what is now becoming an almost universal perception of her shallow politics.

John Kadvany

Menlo Park, CA

Apr 21 2008 - 12:42pm

Web Letter

I find the condecending comments in this thread amusing. You decry the lack of substantive questions and call into question an entire network news organization's credibility on the basis of questions asked of candidates for the presidency of this country. These people are not running for town crier, they are running to be the President; the leader of the entire nation. If questions concerning their patriotism and character are not meaningful then I submit that this country is no longer "One Nation under God" but rather a fractious amalgam of partisans not interested in the welfare of the country.

Will Museler

Portsmouth, RI

Apr 21 2008 - 12:40pm