The Presidential Debates Need a New Format

Op-Ed

Although the presidential election is still nine months away, it’s not too early to think about the debate format. These things require planning and you can’t put them together in a month or two.

One thing is certain: The format of the past, organized by the “Commission on Presidential Debates,” made a mess of things. President Trump should refuse to participate in any “debates” it sponsors unless it adopts a new format.

The existing format gives too much power to so-called “journalists” who overwhelmingly disapprove of and even hate the president. They mistreat him, ask biased questions, use fake news and even interrupt the president in mid-sentence.

In fact, they have gone further than that. They cheat. Former interim Democratic National Chair Donna Brazile, for example, admitted that in 2016 she leaked town hall questions to Hillary Clinton. She said it was “a mistake I will forever regret.”

Regret is nice, Donna, but the point is, we should never have to chance such mistreatment again. And it is equally foolish and suicidal to allow so-called “journalists” to control the live give and take of these important events.

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So here is my suggestion for a new format that is absolutely fair and unbiased. The Committee on Presidential Debates can adopt it, or the president can simply refuse to participate in any “debate” that does not follow this new format, whoever the sponsor is.

Instead of a panel of “journalists” asking questions, each candidate should submit five written questions, the day before the event, to be asked of the other. The Democratic candidate asks five questions of the president, and the president’s team does likewise for his opponent.

A “Timekeeper-Judge” should simply read the questions and give both sides an equal amount of time to answer each question, both their own and their opponent’s.

For example, after the Democratic candidate’s question is read, the president gets four minutes to answer it. After three and a half minutes a yellow light at his podium should go on and after four minutes it should turn red. Four seconds later his mic should automatically go off.

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Then the Democratic Candidate would also get four minutes to explain how he would handle the same topic. In effect, he would be saying: “OK, that’s how you would handle the issue; now here is my position on the same topic.”

The same timing procedure should be used when he answers the topic in his own question. This way both candidates get an equal amount of time which cannot be altered by so-called moderators or journalists.

Since each question will be answered twice, once by the author and once by his opponent, it will take at least eight minutes to handle each question, four minutes from each side. If there are ten questions, that will come to eighty minutes of discussion. So the whole event will take about an hour and a half, including a brief explanation about this new format.

This is perfectly fair and it cannot be influenced by so-called “moderators” and “journalists.” They have proven that they are not up to the task. Just take a look at the Iowa Democratic debate if you want overwhelming proof.

Of course, this is only a suggestion and it can certainly be improved upon. But one thing is for certain. It would be naive, counterproductive and foolish for the president’s team to agree to the same format used in the past. It would relying on the establishment to be fair to an “outsider” president, and we know that will not happen.

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Just as the Mueller investigation was biased, the House impeachment process was biased and the president’s press coverage is biased, the debate format of the past is also biased.

My advice to the president is this: Do not accept it. Insist on a new and fair format. You hold all the cards. Use them.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.

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