There was a time when the quadrennial presidential debates meant something. Not anymore. The debates, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, generally devolve into partisan hackmanship and non-answer response fests, rather than a frank exchange of ideas. The debates do precious little to underscore any real differences between the two candidates.
Historians credit Richard Nixon's lack of comfort in speaking to the "red light" on the camera in swinging a very tight race to John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential debates. The days of insufficient preparation for the broadcast medium are long gone.
Candidates now prep on the issues for weeks prior to a debate. Advance teams spend hundreds of hours dissecting tapes to divine the "style" of the moderators. Comedy writers are hired to come up with snarky lines for the candidates to offer in response to their opponents. Clothing for the candidates is chosen after meeting with focus groups. Nails are manicured and makeup is applied by $1000 / hour "artists".
In other words, today's presidential debates have no more in common with an impromtu addressing of actual issues than "reality TV" shows have with real life.
So, those of you expecting John Kerry to pummel George Bush (or vice versa) in a verbal mano-a-mano are in for a huge disappointment. This year, the more interesting contrast will probably be shown in the single vice-presidential debate, but I'm not quite sure why anyone even bothers with the 'seconds'.
Courtesy of Rachel over at Fiat Lux comes this schedule of the 2004 Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates:
The first debate will be held Sept. 30 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., the Commission on Presidential Debates said Friday. The candidates will sit at a table with moderator Jim Lehrer, anchor of PBS' "NewsHour," and discuss domestic policy.And it's oh-so appropriate that this report originates from "The Hollywood Reporter"...
A town hall-style meeting will be the format for the second debate, which will be held Oct. 8 at Washington University in St. Louis. Undecided voters, picked by the Gallup Organization, will question the candidates. Charlie Gibson, co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America," will be the moderator.
Foreign policy will be the focus of the third and final debate, scheduled for Oct. 13 at Arizona State University in Tempe. Bush and Kerry will again sit around a table, and CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer will be the moderator.
A single vice presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland is planned for Oct. 5. This session, moderated by "NewsHour" correspondent Gwen Ifill, will feature Vice President Dick Cheney and his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Edwards, sitting around a table and discussing a wide range of topics. There also will be a question-and-answer period.