10.20.2008

Presidential Debates

Watching the presidential debates and especially the fact-checking segments that followed on some stations, it occurred to me that a somewhat different format might be helpful. How would it work if the candidates (1) were each asked a question by the moderator, (2) each answered the question, (3) fact checkers then responded to what the candidates said, and (4) the candidates responded to the fact checkers. Then another question would be asked, answered, fact-checked, and responded to by the candidates. And so on. While this might take a bit longer, it would force the candidates to give more attention to the accuracy of their statements and would surely elevate the level of political discourse.
The current debate format actually encourages the candidates to make statements that are only partially true (or completely false) simply because there is no face-to-face confrontation over their exaggerations and, yes, even lies. Candidates need to be held accountable for their statements—directly and in full view of the voters.

1 comment:

meastra said...

There are already online websites such as The Fact Checker at www.washingtonpost.com and Politifact, sponsored by the St Petersburg Times, which do instantaneous fact-checking of live televised political debates. Anyone with a computer, or iphone, can access these sites during a debate. There is no reason why such fact-checking cannot also be done in the presence of the political candidates during such debates. Fact-checkers, be they journalists and/or researchers, know in advance the key issues the candidates will be debating and are already well versed on those issues. Yes, the debate process, as we know it, would be altered considerably, if fact-checking took place during and not after the debates. The debates would be lengthened considerably and would be more costly because of the additional airtime needed. Some might even argue that there would be bias added into the debates, as fact-checkers themselves may favor one political candidate over the other and thus be selective in the points they choose to fact-check. But, instantaneous fact-checking would force the candidates to strive for accuracy and truth in their statements. An extreme alternative would be to have each candidate, prior to the debate, swear on a bible that he/she will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and have him/her prosecuted for perjury, if he/she fails to do so.