Patty Dineen

The view from here

Publicize rules for the imitation townhall – Candidates made the rules, citizens decorated the stage

During last night’s presidential candidates debate, moderator Tom Brokaw noted that lengthy negotiations with the two campaigns had resulted in the rules for the debate.  Billed as a “townhall” format, the evening was only just barely so by virtue of having a handful of “ordinary citizens” on the stage–arranged like they were replacing the American flags we usually see behind candidates.  They may as well have been flags, or potted palms for that matter.

Just a few of the questions came from the people-props.  And with the first question it became obvious that one of the “rules” must have been that there would be no returning to the questioner to see if they thought their question had been answered.  Reportedly, the rules also called for the questioner’s microphone to be turned off after the question was asked, and the cameras were not to show the questioner during or after the candidates’ answers.   What do you suppose the candidates’ handlers were worried about?

In fact, Tom Brokaw did very little pushing either.  That must have been another one of the “rules.”  Or it might not have been necessary since media folks are much more careful about upsetting candidates and their campaigns since they don’t want to suffer a lack of access in the future.  Ordinary citizens might not feel similarly constrained since we know  we won’t have any access in the future anyway.

Wouldn’t it be helpful (and instructive) to “we the public” if the debate sponsors had insisted that one of the debate rules had to be that the entire 31-page “memorandum of understanding” must be made public?  Better yet– let us see the demands that were made by each of the campaigns in their negotiations for the rules.  That would really be news we could use.

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Written by dineenp

October 8, 2008 at 4:35 pm

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