Modest Proposal, Second Iteration

Commission on Debates: Do Something!

In which I float a second idea for how to get big-name journalists out of these debates.

Last week I wrote that debates should not be hosted by journalists but actual policy experts. This provoked the usual derision from the expected quarters. I think it was James Taranto of the Journal who tweeted that it reflected my panic, and lots of other wingers hopped on that train.

Uh, not really. As I noted in that post, I liked the idea back in 2008. If I liked it then, when Barack Obama was winning all three debates, why would it indicate panic?

It just indicates what I think, which last night confirmed. Martha Raddatz started out well, but she was terrible by the end, and she was terrible in exactly that kind of afternoon TV way, asking the kind of saccharine questions that television is constantly pressuring its hosts to ask people. In fact, I would bet, knowing that Raddatz is a serious journalist, that the suits at ABC or wherever forced her to ask one or two of those questions.

Hence, the devil take journalists in these situations. Or wait; maybe not all journalists. If my think-tank experts idea is too extreme for you, then let's compromise on journalists no one has ever heard of who aren't TV stars and don't have TV egos. I mean people who cover specific issues for Congressional Quarterly, and even the trade journals. I'd like a gal from Oil Daily to ask energy questions, and a guy who covers health policy for CQ to ask health questions. And so on.

With last night's format--nine topic areas, 10 minutes each--I'd have assembled a panel of straight-news reporters, experts on their beats. The commission would just select these people, no approval from either camp. After all, they're just straight-news reporters no one's ever heard of; they've never uttered a political opinion in their lives, so by definition they can't be objectionable.

Once the nine have been named, you let each one run that 10-minute session. Then on to the next person. Then there's no moderator ego or mishegass of any kind. Viewers wouldn't even remember who the journalists were. And that would be entirely appropriate to the occasion.

Except that they would have enough knowledge to asked pointed, specific questions and pointed, specifics follow ups. So maybe they'd get under one side's skin or the other. Whatever. This is supposed to be for the public's edification. Seriously, CPD. You have created a pretty crappy situation. Think outside the box.