Debate over the value of presidential debates


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I would like to respond to Matthew Gagnon’s recent column on the presidential debates. His point is that if we’re honest, we’ll probably agree with what he thinks. At the risk of persuading him that I am dishonest, I must disagree.

I agree that political debates are no longer of the caliber of Lincoln/Douglas or Kennedy/Nixon. Part of this may stem from the character of politicians and their advisers who are more about optics than substance. Moderators could go a long way in steering the discussions in a more meaningful direction. Too often, news outlets are only ostensibly interested in creating arguments at the expense of educating the public. In the meantime, there are, unfortunately, many viewers who come to the debates with preformed opinions that have nothing to do with a search for solutions or an effort to know the positions of the candidates.

Finally, the debates, however badly conducted, provide an opportunity to assess the character of the candidates. Their behavior is a key indicator of how they will lead and in which direction. Recent history is eloquent testimony to this.

Doug Popper



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