Fixing the Presidential Debates


I found myself watching another Democratic presidential debate the other day. I'm honestly not sure why I keep subjecting myself to these things.

Whose idea was it to put Wolf Blitzer onstage with the Democrats-for-president the same week Jack Kevorkian got out of prison? Is there a human being on the planet with a less favorable name-to-personality ratio than Wolf Blitzer?

As far as I'm concerned, this debate was the perfect solution to terminal sickness. The next time I'm dying, I'm strapping myself to a chair and watching it over and over till it kills me.

Which would probably take only once.

The thing I kept thinking while watching this debate was that these forums really are just legal forms of assisted suicide. Not for the viewers or the voters, but for most of the candidates.

Just think about how fair and equal these debates seem to be. Isn't it nice how 'fringe' candidates get to spend time with the more 'serious' or 'popular' contenders? Seeing Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd onstage with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards really gives the impression the Democratic Party is open to many ideas.

Unfortunately, that's not the real idea behind letting guys like Dodd and Gravel participate. The real idea is to let them kill themselves'slowly.

You take a guy like Dennis Kucinich, and the debates are the only place where he gets any kind of attention. Maybe this is his own fault for being sort of goofy. But that just proves my point. They put him up there, let him talk, then completely ignore him in the post-debate coverage. Why let him debate in the first place? Just to prove what he said wasn't worth further discussion?

The same thing happens with the Republicans. Fox News urged viewers to vote in their 'Who the hell won?' poll during a Republican debate a few weeks ago. Then they realized Ron Paul was winning and suddenly Sean Hannity pointed out the poll was non-scientific (i.e., useless). Ron Paul's success was a problem for Fox, because most of their post-debate coverage focused on him being an inconsequential loon.

No matter the party, no matter the candidates, all these debates serve the same simple function of reinforcing the chosen status of the media's chosen candidates. Across party lines, these handpicked favorites share one major thing in common, and that's the fact that they wouldn't change a damn thing in Washington.

You really think it makes a difference whether we get John McCain or Barack Obama? Prove it.

In each and every case, the high-profile candidates are the ones who would spend tons of money, occupy countries, use and abuse the Constitution, and generally disregard everything good about America. None represent the founding ideals of this once great but now fading nation. All want power, and power on top of power. One or two will get it. The rest will get their share.

The media has neutralized the one useful thing about our two-party system. The major candidates don't oppose each other. They oppose the candidates in their own parties with the courage to say we're all screwed.

From now on, instead of these big stupid debates that involve a dozen people and produce nothing but soundbites, I'd like to see the minor and major candidates get to square off one-by-one. Rudy and Hillary are running out the clock here. If they want their parties' nominations, they should have to face off against every opponent in their parties, face-to-face.

Only a series of one-on-one debates would prevent the media from ignoring 'lesser' candidates in their post-debate coverage. And if nothing else, hey'it would make for better TV.

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Jonathan David Morris writes a weekly column on politics and personal freedoms.  His website is