By now the media have worked themselves into a frenzy over the looming presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Who will win? What will they talk about? Will they answer the questions? Who will get in the most one-liners, talking points, and zingers? Who will look at his watch first?
You know the drill. It’s all we’ve heard for weeks. Mindless speculation based primarily on each network’s determination to attract as many viewers as possible. Facts? Real information? Boring! Let’s generate some controversy. Let’s look at the past and guess about the future. Guesses are so much more fun!
I suggest we dump the current “debate” format — which we all know is not a debate at all, but a series of questions to which the candidates reply with anything they jolly well please, whether or not it answers the question posed.
Instead, I propose we use a game show format. It would be much more informative, as the candidates would have to compete for the right to answer the question, and then their answers would have to be brief, relevant, and correct, as dictated by the game format. There would be little opportunity to throw in irrelevant talking points or wander off topic. Real knowledge would be tested.
Host: The subject, gentlemen, is terrorism. Ready with your buzzers? Okay, here we go: What nationality were the 9/11 terrorists? (A) Afghani (B) Iraqi (C) Pakistani (D) None of the above.
Host: Gov. Romney?
Romney: A. Afghanis. That’s why we attacked them.
Host: I’m sorry, no. Pres. Obama, your turn.
Obama: C, Pakistani. I’ve got drones bombing over there right now.
Host: No, the correct answer is D, none of the above. The 9/11 terrorists were Egyptian and Saudi.
See? We learned what each candidate knows or doesn’t know, and we learned a fact about the terrorists.
Or how about this:
Host: Okay, Governor, for $10,000, how many suspected terrorists were waterboarded at Guantanamo? (A) 3, (B) 5, (C) 7, or (D) 10.
Romney: Hmm, I don’t think any of those answers are high enough. I’d like to phone a friend.
Host: Okay, Governor. Who would you like to call?
Romney: I’d like to call Dick Cheney, please….
And of course we’ll have one debate for the vice presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Perhaps a Jeopardy format:
Biden: Uh, I’ll take Health Care for $300
Host: This signature piece of health care legislation was passed by the Democrats in March 2010.
Biden: Uh, what is … uh … hmmm … well, I remember it was a big BLEEPing deal …
Ryan: I’ll take National Debt for $500.
Host: This plan would cut taxes on the rich, raise them on the poor and middle class, and gut Medicare.
Ryan: Uh, well, I know the answer but I don’t have time to explain it and you wouldn’t understand anyway …
Host: As a question, please.
Ryan: What is my plan to reduce the national debt?
Game shows. Short, succinct questions. Short, precise answers. The candidates either know the answer or they don’t. They don’t get to talk if it’s not their turn, and they have to win the right to speak at all. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong, and they don’t get to oil their way around it. Best of all, the audience learns a lot of good solid information about both the candidates and the topics.