have a question I wish I'd sent in to You Tube for the most recent Fox
News and Google primetime GOP debate. The fourth episode of So You Want to Be President aired
last Thursday, striking me as a modern take on an old-fashioned quiz
show. And while I watched, here's the question I wished I had asked: Why
don't you folks have a real debate?
The two leading candidates, Texas Governor Rick Perry and unemployed
businessman Mitt Romney, had a literary discussion about their books,
while the seven other contenders struggled to get a word in edgewise. It
was another abomination.
Same format, with the wannabees lined up in front of podiums that
look like jukebox fronts. Same Q&A, but even worse than the earlier
debates. Three interrogators plus the lucky You Tubers. Even louder
audience performance, making me wonder if the cheers were prerecorded
and enhanced. Same confused investors like me at home. The spectacle had
as much to do with debates as the old TV game show, Family Feud, had to do with the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.
Why don't they hold real debates anymore? Simple. No guts.
Politicians today don't like real debates. Their idea of a good debate was going on the old Larry King Show on CNN and facing the vicious bean balls Larry threw, like "Let's get serious. What do you think of my suspenders?"
In a real debate, a future President is liable to say something
really meaningful beyond the rehearsed sound bites. The candidates could
shoot themselves in the mouth with a truth that might be useful for the
No matter how many wrinkles TV networks throw into them -- like last
week's Google maps, photo ops for average folks, emails, instant polls
on most popular issues -- making it look as if we're seeing the greatest
advance in democracy since the invention of soft-money campaign
financing, these so-called debates are still glorified press
For years, the best and brightest our parties have to offer have
been getting away with pathetic excuses for debate because the public
has forgotten, if it ever knew, what real debates are about.
OK, Mister Smarty Pants. What is a real debate? Well, it's simple.
One person makes a statement. The other person says, "My worthy
opponent is a lying bastard. Here are the true facts." In his rebuttal,
the worthy person than says, "Au contraire, my opponent is full of baloney." He then gets a chance to set the record straight.
Awhile ago, Roger Ailes, the founding father of Fox News, told me an
alternative proposal to what Fox News so proudly put on the air last
night. If he was running for President -- hold your applause -- Ailes
explained, "I'd call up the other guy and say, 'Let's have a debate. No
moderators. No questions. We'll get a studio. Two chairs. You come in
one door and I'll come in the other. We'll sit down in the center and
have a conversation, and we'll debate the issues. The only other person
in the room would be the cameraman, and he will take the pictures. We'll
sit there for two hours, just like two guys in the waiting room at the
airport. And when it's over the audience at home will have to decide who
should be president.' That's a debate.
"I said that 20 years ago," the Fox News chairman explained. "Couldn't get any takers."
That's understandable. It was a wild and crazy idea then, even more
of a radical notion today, coming from the fevered brain of a flaming
archconservative. It's against the very nature of democratic elections,
as we know them, against the traditional values and methods of keeping
the people in the dark until it's too late.
Until the revolution comes, smart investors will just have to wait for the polls to tell us whom we want for President.