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What the McCain-Obama "Debates" Should Have Been Like

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Kevin Gosztola       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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The third party debate sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections group just finished airing on C-SPAN2. While it only included Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin, two of the six presidential candidates on enough ballot lines to win in a free and fair election, the third party debate showed what the debates between McCain and Obama could have been like.

Ralph Nader, the Independent presidential candidate, and Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate, went back and forth talking about the issues never letting the discussion devolve into one aimed at the lowest common denominator.

The candidates never shirked from addressing ever pressing issues like the bailout, foreign policy in the Middle East, the Constitution, and the role of corporations in America.

The moderator was Chris Hedges, who, unlike Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill, Tom Brokaw, or Bob Schieffer, never backed off when posing questions. His question were often three and four part questions with complexities that will never be seen in a debate sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). 

The format for the debate was one the CPD should adopt. According to Free and Equal:

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-No opening statements
-There will be six of the following question and answer series: The
moderator will pose a question. Each candidate will be permitted 90
seconds to respond. The candidates' preliminary answers will be followed
by a 5-minute "discussion" period, during which the moderator will be
permitted unlimited follow-up questions and the candidates would be
encouraged to engage one another in actual debate. This will last about
60 minutes.

-After the above six question-and-answer series, each candidate will be
permitted to ask a single question of one or more of the other
candidates, with each candidate permitted 90 seconds to respond. This
will last about 10 minutes.
-After this, submitted questions from the audience will be selected and
presented by the moderator. This will last for about 10 minutes.
-Each candidate will be permitted a 2-minute closing statement. 

“Rate the Debates” analyses posted on Free Press show that Americans wanted something more than three parallel interviews.

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The analyses show Americans wanted more wide ranging discussion in the first debate on the economy, Americans wanted Tom Brokaw to fact-check the candidates and challenge their spin in the second debate, and in the third debate Americans still wanted the moderator, Bob Schieffer, to challenge the candidates more.

The Free and Equal debate set a standard to be followed, however, it had a serious deficiency.

Just watch this video from McKinney explaining why she wanted to be there.


I noticed it. Despite the fact that Hedges did what every debate moderator should do, he had, prior to this debate, “endorsed” Nader. McKinney is right that his might as well be called “The Nader Debate.”


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The video from McKinney shows the schism among progressives turning to third parties which has developed and how Nader has created two opposing groups, Green and Naderites.

Whatever good intentions the Nader/Gonzalez campaign may have had, the Barr campaign is right to bring up the fact that they publicly announced this debate without checking candidate availability. Barr was apparently at Georgia Tech and could not get out of it. 

Whether this is true or not does not matter. The campaign is throwing this together after’s attempts at a debate failed and it really should not have happened without all four candidates.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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