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If Only…

December 6, 2007

I’m disappointed with the YouTube debates. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of switching up the stale debate format; it’s just that I think the changes are too minor. Despite the diversity in questioners, we get basically the same answers.

I would like to offer a modest proposal: a new format which would be called “The Situation Room” (not to be confused with the melodramatic news coverage provided by CNN). The basic idea would be to focus on the judgment of candidates and not their particular policy positions. Policy positions are critical, but so is the judgment of candidates–something which gets lost with the soundbite format of the debates and, more generally, the campaign trail.

Taking a page out of the reality TV handbook, candidates would be given two hours to address a foreign policy crisis with a team of foreign policy advisors. On Live TV. Viewers could see how candidates react under pressure when they can’t rely solely on soundbites. Does Guiliani listen to his advisors? Can Obama exercise good foreign policy judgment despite his relative lack of experience?

The foreign policy crisis would be fictional. Differences in information between candidates and between candidates and the general public would be non-existent–everyone would have the same information. The show would open with a briefing from a fictional military official in a fictional country. At the conclusion of the briefing, background information would be simultaneously made available to candidates and the general public. Candidates would then have two hours to assess the situation and announce their course of action in a 5-minutes press conference.

Beyond making the “debate” more engaging (hopefully), the process would be more engaging to the general public. Access to information would be equal, and accordingly candidates would be forced to address relevant facts. Let’s see who seems the most Presidential then.

Would the candidates ever agree to such a format? Probably not. Sigh. I guess I could always submit a question during the next YouTube debate asking the candidates to participate in “The Situation Room.”

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