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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 22, 2013/ 16 Elul, 5773

How to fix presidential debates

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | At their meeting in Boston last week, Republican National Committee members voted unanimously not to sponsor or sanction any presidential primary debate with NBC or CNN during the 2016 election cycle. Both networks have projects about Hillary Clinton in the works that Republicans predict will be "little more than extended commercials" promoting a potential run for the White House by the former secretary of state. (NBC is planning a miniseries about Clinton starring Diane Lane; CNN will produce a full-length feature film to be shown in theaters next year.) The RNC, saying it's fed up with the media's liberal favoritism, will refuse to partner with either NBC or CNN as the next primary season gets underway.

Considering how riven the GOP has been lately, a unanimous stand on anything is impressive. But boycotting the two networks on the grounds that they're biased won't fix what's wrong with modern candidate debates.

Debates about debates are nothing new; neither are complaints about the political bias of the media sponsors or the moderators. Since most mainstream news organizations tilt to the left, the protests have frequently come from Republicans and conservatives.

But it works the other way, too. Fox News was compelled to cancel a scheduled Democratic presidential primary debate in 2007 when most of the leading candidates — including then-Senator Clinton — boycotted the event because of Fox's tilt to the right.

Some moderators are better than others at suppressing any appearance of ideological or political partiality, but does that really make for better debates? After all, candidates don't run for the White House because they crave four years of politics-free serenity. The presidency isn't a haven from partisan bias, ideological agendas, or liberal-conservative warfare. Political debates are meant to enlarge voters' insight into the candidates seeking their vote — insight into not only their ideas about government and their stands on current issues, but also their ability to think on their feet, to respond to criticism, and to defend their views in the face of difficult or pointed challenges.



There are better ways to improve candidate debates than by demanding a Caesar's-wife standard of purity from the news organizations sponsoring them. Here are three suggestions.

1. Look beyond the media for sponsors and moderators.

Just because TV networks have the cameras doesn't mean they have to be in charge of the debates. Journalists and news anchors are hardly the only people who can pose questions to candidates and enforce time limits. Why shouldn't debates be organized by think tanks or universities or research laboratories? If debates can be held at presidential libraries, why can't the questioners be presidential historians? Or former presidential counselors? Or even past presidential candidates?

I have nothing against Bob Schieffer or Jim Lehrer or Gwen Ifill, but nowhere is it carved in granite that they are the very model of a modern presidential debate moderator. Imagine instead a debate with Michael Dukakis and James Baker as co-moderators. Or one in which the questions were posed to the candidates by David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Would Americans tune in to watch? Of course they would.

2. Focus debates on a single subject.

Real debates don't cover the waterfront; they concentrate on one important question. Their purpose is to make a convincing case for opposing points of view, and debaters come prepared to defend their positions with serious arguments and rebuttals.

What passes for "debate" in modern presidential campaigns, by contrast, is nothing but a shower of rehearsed talking points and back-and-forth sniping. The candidates aren't there to drill down into one controversial topic. They are there to deal with any question that might be thrown at them, they are expected to speak in 60- or 90-second sound bites, and they know that in five minutes the subject may change to something quite unrelated.

This isn't debating, it's repartee. Far better would be single-question debates on thorny issues — ObamaCare, radical Islam, entitlement reform — that would allow candidates to set aside the glib tit-for-tats, and give voters a chance to see how thoughtful they can be.

3. Eliminate moderators altogether.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas didn't need referees or questions from panelists to distinguish themselves in the most famous series of debates in US political history. Seven times the candidates engaged on the question of slavery, with a three-hour format that seems impossible by today's shallow standards. No sponsors, no moderators, no Q-and-A: Just two candidates debating at length. Tens of thousands of voters turned out to see the debates; journalists swarmed to cover them.

Lincoln and Douglas treated voters as adults, capable of dealing with difficult ideas and following the thread of long and serious discussions. Though their debates occurred in the context of a short-term political campaign (the 1858 Illinois state election), they knew that the issues at stake were of lasting importance — and that Americans would be grappling with them, as Lincoln noted, long after "these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent." They approached debates as acts of statesmanship. Would that candidates today did likewise.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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