It rankles me when something is advertised as one thing, and then it turns out to be something else. When a bank says, “free checking” only to find out it isn’t really “free.”  Or when a product is touted as “new and improved” and it’s really the same formula in a new and improved package.  Or when the Republican Presidential Primary Debate turns out to be a Q&A session with the candidates.  Why not just call it a Q&A session rather than a debate?

A “debate” is, by definition, “a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints.”  It can also mean “a formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of proposition are advocated by opposing speakers.”

The process Moderator Baier stated at the beginning might have given us opposing viewpoints:

“The rules for tonight are simple. One minute for answers, 30 seconds for follow­-ups. And if a candidate runs over, you’ll hear this <<buzzer from the arena shotclock>>.”

That is, if we had some rebuttals.  Out of a total of 31 questions directed at a unique candidate, only seven had rebuttals.  That seems more like a Question & Answer (Q&A) session to me!

Furthermore, it’s fairly difficult to get “affirmative and negative sides of a proposition” with ten candidates.  It could have been possible, but would have taken a bit more structure to accomplish.  We saw a glimmer of this in the Huckabee/Christie exchange over entitlement reform:

Moderator Wallace asked, “Governor Christie, I want to engage you and Governor Huckabee in a subject that is a big issue in both of your campaigns, and that is entitlement reform.

You say that you — to save the system that you want to raise the retirement age — have to raise the retirement age, and to cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare, and you say that some of the candidates here on the stage are lying.

Governor Huckabee says he can save Social Security and Medicare without doing any of that. Is he lying?”

Christie responded, Wallace asked Huckabee how it could work.  Huckabee responded.  Christie rebutted and Huckabee rebutted.  Now that’s a debate of sorts!  Sadly, it only happened once.

The Republican Presidential Primary wasn’t a debate.  It was an effort to introduce a whopping number of candidates to the American public.  So Q&A was probably the better way to go.  But don’t call it a debate.  It was a Q&A session with a little spark here and there.

I’m looking forward to a smaller field where there can actually be a conversation of opposing viewpoints.

(See my full critique of the debate here)

 

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