My friend Amy Ridenour yesterday wrote an editorial in Denver Post advising future moderators about making the debate questions more relevant, interesting, and perhaps challenging. I, for one, cannot tolerate more than a couple of minutes of either candidate, spewing the same, stale platitudes and non-answers. But I guess they also have to consider the lowest common denominator. I like a number of her ideas, including tailoring the questions to each candidate. Each candidate has different strengths and weaknesses, so talk to those.
The first question in the first debate — essentially, how can America create more jobs? — allowed the candidates to repeat memorized sound bites. If you didn’t already know Donald Trump opposes NAFTA and believes in better trade deals, then you learned something. Likewise, if you’ve never heard Democratic Party talking points — the rich get more than their fair share, let’s enact paid family leave and increase the minimum wage — your eyes were opened.
But these things were already known to most voters.
The mark of a great moderator is his ability to take things to the next level.
Moderator Lester Holt should have asked Trump: Many Americans agree that too many jobs have gone overseas, but they also enjoy low prices. When a company manufactures overseas, it can reduce prices. If your proposals go into effect, by how much will prices rise? Be specific and tell us why we should trust your numbers. How do you know the American people prefer more jobs to lower prices?
Holt should have asked Clinton: You frequently speak of fairness, about family leave and taxpayer-funded child care, and raising the minimum wage. But these things cost money; they don’t create — and often kill — jobs. The one proposal you make to create jobs, promoting alternative energy, was tried by President Obama and resulted in billions spent on bankrupt companies. Do you have any policy ideas to cause substantial job creation in the private sector? If you don’t, isn’t it correct to say that you have no plan to expand America’s wealth?
These are actually intelligent suggestions. I guess my question is: are the candidates going to actually answer the questions?
I actually did watch last night’s Vice Presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. It’s a sad statement on the state of the election when no matter what question was asked on what issue, the first thing the candidates did was impugn one another’s running mates.
It went something like this:
Moderator: How would you deal with the burgeoning North Korean threat if they actually developed nuclear missiles that could reach the United States?
Pence: Well, if Hillary Clinton would just release the 30,000 emails…
Kaine: Well, if Trump would actually release his tax returns like every other presidential candidate…
Both: Bluster, grumble, blah, derp!
Pence: Oh… Did you say something about North Korea?
And that’s pretty much how it went on every question.
Yeah, yeah. We got it. Trump is evil. Hillary is evil. Blah, blah, blah.
I will also say that both candidates really have the personalities of toilet seat mold, so I kept myself occupied with playing mindless games on my phone, while occasionally yelling at my screen for them to answer the damn question and stop interrupting.
There were times when the moderator would try to ask the next question, and you couldn’t even hear her, because both Pence and Kaine just yammered on at one another, interrupting and not even listening.
Estimates put Kaine’s interruptions at 70 last night, while Pence interrupted about 40 times. Whom do they think they’re persuading when no one can hear the answers, or questions, for that matter?
So I got bored. And since Amy provided valuable advice to make the debates more topical, I’d like to provide a few ideas I feel would make the debates more exciting.
- Cage. Rabid badgers. Candidates. Think about it! Two candidates being asked policy questions while being chased by rabid badgers inside a transparent enclosure! You can’t tell me that won’t be fun!
- Anytime a candidate rudely interrupts his or her opponent, a moderator will come up and slap them upside the head. Hard. With a two-by-four.
- Fact check breaks. If a candidate makes an assertion, fact checkers from both sides of the political aisle immediately research said assertion. If it’s wrong, the moderator will come up and slap the candidate upside the head. Hard. With a two-by-four. See above.
- If a candidate is caught lying, he or she will immediately be placed in a glass booth filled with venomous snakes and will stay in there until they tell the truth. Tarantulas – hairy ones – are also acceptable.
- Bad tequila shots. Instead of having drinking games where the audience gets shitfaced every time a candidate says a particular word or phrase, or repeats an assertion, have the candidate take a shot. They’ll be plastered and vomiting on themselves by the end of the debate, and their answers will be a lot more fun!
- Moderator: Tell us, Secretary Clinton, how would you deal with North Korea’s quest for more powerful nuclear weapons?
- Clinton (sloshed and slurring): Fuck that little, fat shit. I’d go over there, have my Secret Service guys tie him down naked, and shove a live, writhing hedgehog up his ass. I’ll fucking make him regret being born, that midgety little motherfucker.. *grumble*
- Audience involvement. After every question has been answered, have the audience throw rotten fruit at the candidate of their choice.
- Mud wrestling match in a kiddie poll. Fully dressed. Nuff said.
- Hunger Games meets Survivor. Instead of debates, just put the candidates on an island with fatal booby traps. The last two standing will be President and VP.
- Moderated by a drunken Mel Gibson. Just because.
Those are just a few fun potential additions to the election season. I mean, who wants to sit there and stare at the same old candidates rehash the same old points without giving a thought to the actual questions asked?
This will be way more exciting! And maybe this will get the country to actually closely focus on the candidates and what they bring to the job!
Who’s with me? Any more cool ideas? Add your own in comments.