Moderating the Debates

MODERATING THE DEBATES….So I’m curious: how does everyone think presidential debates should be handled? I’m as tired as everyone of moderators trying to turn every question into a gotcha, but the fact that the pros are annoying doesn’t automatically mean that the audience questions are any better. Let’s face it: most of them don’t even rise to the level of softballs. They’re more like beachballs: “How will you get us out of Iraq?” “What’s your plan for healthcare?” “How will you bring us together?”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a few beachballs. Giving every candidate a couple of minutes to simply explain their healthcare plan — or whatever — without interruption is fine. But then what? Do we really want several months of “debates” in which candidates do nothing but rattle off bits and pieces of their stump speeches endlessly?

I dunno. It’s true that Wolf Blitzer was almost a parody last night. It was sort of astonishing to watch him get visibly perturbed every single time a candidate seemed about to make a substantive point, as if talking about their actual record or explaining some policy detail was cheating of some kind and had to be cut off. On the other hand, it’s also true that the candidates, as candidates will, mostly seemed like they would have given their entire stump speech in response to every question if Blitzer hadn’t cut them off. So what to do? Given the format of these things, is there really any way to make them more watchable and more meaningful?