Reform the Debates (Again)

10.22.12

The Things Not Asked; Tonight

Lots of people are pointing out that, assuming climate change doesn't come up tonight, and Bob Schieffer's little list suggests it won't, this will be the first presidential debate since 1984. Yes, the issue was first discussed in 1988, which was the year NASA scientist James Hansen's testimony brought the topic to the attention of the political world. That's kind of embarrassing, really, but there are many things not discussed, and climate change might not even be the most egregious example. Inequality, por ejemplo.

Over the weekend, I was watching one of the Reagan-Mondale face offs, I'm not sure which one, but the chyron said it was October 21, 1984. It was, of course, slower-paced. They seemed to have longer to answer each question. It had a moderator from TV, Edwin Newman, whom some of you greybears will recall, the old grammatical knuckle-rapper, and a panel of three journalists asking questions, which included Mort Kondracke of the New Republic, already famous enough for that I guess because he was on McLaughlin Group, but could you imagine someone from TNR being up there today? S/he'd be instantly vetoed.

The other questioners were Georgie Ann Geyer, the columnist who wrote a lot on foreign affairs in the day, and Henry Terwhitt, chief diplomatic correspondent of the Baltimore Sun. Here's a transcript in case you're at the vet waiting for your cat's tonsils to be removed.

There was no golden age of presidential debates. But as I've written, I'd love to have serious, area-specific, non-face-card journalists asking the questions. In the case of domestic policy, my scheme would ensure that one journalist was there who wrote about climate change and environmental matters and science, who would go one round with both candidates for 10 minutes.

What would you like to see discussed tonight that isn't on the limited fight card? What do you think was the worst ommission from the first two debates? What's been the silliest question so far?

I'll be in the hall tonight, or no, actually in the media filing center. I've been over there, to pick up my credentials, but I don't even know the buidling where the debate will actually take place. It's pretty spread out, old Lynn University, whatever exactly it is. I can't bring myself to plow through the promotional material they've handed me, but I did note that the media center, where I'll be working tonight, is in the basketball arena, which is actually called the Count and Countness de Hoernle Sports and Cultural Center. The good count was/is a local big shot and benefactor, but I can't seem to find out anything else about him. We were kind of short of counts in West Virginia.

In any case, I'll be tweeting during the debate at @mtomasky and I will have a reax piece up by 11:30 or 11:40 at latest. Enjoy.