The ABC Gibson-Stephanopolous debate was, perhaps more than anything else, a profound insult to Americans. The failure of ABC's leadership up and down the corporate ladder makes it clear that the network no longer has the right or privilege to call the shots on the contents or script for a debate. Other networks have not done much better with their "gotcha" questions and their agenda of catching soundbytes for later use against candidates.
The answer is to set some standards for debates. It's time to remove the fake, media created issues from debates. It may be that some campaign strategists put the dirt and attacks on character, history and personality out there. It may be that candidates do it, but that does not mean this has to come up in debates. Debates should be forums where candidates define and make clear who they are and where they stand on issues.
The questions presented to debaters have been limited to insultingly short time limits designed to maximize the networks' capture of soundbytes. It takes more time to give intelligent, fleshed out answers and the candidates should be according such time.
Questions should aim to bring new information to light. They should help viewers to learn new things about the candidates. They should bring up the issues that voters care about the most. They should bring up news that is substantive.
Part of the problem is the major political parties ALLOWED the networks to take over. The parties are partly to blame. That means the members of the parties-- YOU-- have to give them notice that they made a huge, unacceptable mistake and they have to fix it.
Howard Dean-- you blew it. DNC leaders-- you blew it. Now go take back the debates from the networks and clean your mess up. The real issues can and will be just as or more telegenic. And even if some questions are not sexy or exciting, that's okay. The networks are given licenses to our airwaves to serve us. There is no more important way than broadcasting the discussions that form such a key element of our democracy.
I've written that the Dems should literally refuse to appear on FOX. They actually did it during the primary season. I think it was the right thing to do. The Dems, at the least, need to do the same thing to ALL the networks, set standards where the control of the debate, even the use of camera shots of the audience, which ABC used in a biased way, only showing Clinton people, is determined based on pre-arranged rules. IF they do that, it may even work to allow FOX to broadcast a debate. But they won't be running it. A network should never, ever again run a presidential debate again. They've shown they are unable to do the job that we the people deserve.