Debates Not Open for 2008

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I've written many times about the problems with our presidential debates. This year, as before -- but unlike 2004 -- the debate contract between the two campaigns is being kept secret.

Long story short -- and you can find out much more at Open Debates -- a private, nonpartisan organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates is given control of the debates by the candidates of the two parties, and the CPD decides how the debate will be run.

Well, that's what they want you to think. In fact, the CPD was started in 1986 by the RNC and DNC (it's still co-chaired by then-chairs of the DNC and RNC, Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, today) to take away control of the debates from the League of Women Voters, and it is the candidates' campaigns themselves that come up with all the rules.

So, for example, when Ross Perot was kept out of the debates in 1996, it was because Dole's campaign demanded it, and Clinton's campaign agreed. The candidates are the ones who agree on everything -- from the number and format of debates, to who will moderate each one, and even the size of the podiums and number of TVs in the dressing rooms -- and the CPD just rubber-stamps it. If you feel like the debates are set up to be commercials for the campaigns ... you're absolutely right.

Bush and Kerry made their memorandum of understanding (PDF, 7.3MB) public in 2004. The MOU negotiated by Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Rahm Emanuel for McCain and Obama, unfortunately, has not been made public.

Of course, making the MOU public is just one small step. Really, control of the debates should be relinquished to an actual independent party, such as the League of Women Voters.

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on September 8, 2008 10:36 PM.

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