Monday, January 11, 2010

This is Not Debatable

Massachusetts is having a special election next week. This is to officially fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy. You would think that this would be a big deal and that it would bring out some of the best and brightest from both parties.

Well, it hasn't turned out that way. The state had a primary and the field of candidates didn't exactly stir the minions. A few dozen voters showed up and they narrowed things down to three possibilities. Scott Brown the republican, who doesn't quite look ready for prime time. Martha Coakley the democrat. She's the current state Attorney General in this blue state and you'd think she should be a shoe in. However, it's not going so easy for Martha, maybe it has to do with the fact that she looks like she's wound up way too tight. Oh, then there's the also-ran, independent Joe Kennedy. No, he's not part of clan, just some kid with the same name. The name might actually get him up to 10% of the vote.

So, these three have just had a couple of debates and after watching you'd come away not knowing a whole lot more than if you stayed with Two and a Half Men. The two front runners shouted charges at each other and the Kennedy kid was off to the side probably making up the next day's shopping list.

The trouble is, the moderator let's this happen. Tonight's moderator was Dave Gergen. Gergen is a bright guy. He's been an advisor to a handful of presidents, he's a political analyst on major networks, he's teaching at Harvard, for cryin' out loud. But, he didn't handle this debate well.

It's not Gergen's fault though. Debates in the last 10 to 15 years have gone seriously down hill. It used to be that there were rules in a debate. Participants had a set time to make a statement or answer a question. Then, another, could respond or rebute. But, it was structured and the moderator would control the process.

Debates today have turned into free-for-alls. Candidates try to out shout their opponents while trying to get a great sound bite in at the same time. We really don't get to learn much about positions or platforms. And, of course, its in a front runners best interest to do as few debates as possible. They shouldn't worry though, most viewers are checking out what's going on with Charlie and Alan.

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