Raymond Richman - Jesse Richman - Howard Richman
Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog
Veep Debate -- A loss for Kaine and Civility
Civility took a back seat this debate. Since 2012 at least, the presidential debates have headed to the gutter. Interruption contests rather than contests of ideas. I have proposed eliminating the moderator and letting the microphone do the business the moderators aren't of keeping time and preventing interruption. But in the absence of that approach, perhaps we can consider the following. Television networks can probably do this one all on their own. If one of them advertises that they are taking this road next debate, I promise I will watch their feed.
1. Announce that candidates who speak when it isn't their turn will have their microphone muted.
2. Any candidate who speaks out of turn will have their image cut from the screen -- the camera will just show the opponent.
3. If candidates persist in violating the rules, change the angle and cut to the moderator when candidates interrupt.
Implementing this will merely require a few seconds of lag and an agile crew managing the video and audio feeds. If done right, no one outside of the auditorium of the debate need ever know that one of the candidates lacked the basic self control and decency to wait until the opponent had delivered a sentence.
As it is, the debates have become an embarrassment. A display of bullying disrespect rather than an arena for the battle of ideas. At best an audition for the weekend talk show circuit. Perhaps the cross-talk makes for "good television" but it diminishes our democracy. There should be ample provision of time to respond. No quarter should be given, however, to the efforts candidates make to steal time and silence their opponents through snide remarks, repeated interruptions, and similar schoolyard tactics.
The marching orders for Tim Kaine in the VP debate seem to have been to attack relentlessly. But he was miscast for the role. Kaine's basic temper and personality are sunny and positive. And instead of relentless attack, what often emerged was reckless attack. He even committed the ultimate Rubioesque faux pas -- he returned to the same memorized talking points a second time. In the end this trivialized the Clinton campaign's attack on Trump rather than turning the knife as intended. Kaine wasn't himself. And it showed.
Pence, on the other hand, was well cast for his role. One of the questions I had going into this debate was how Pence was going to deal with the gaps between his own positions and Trump's positions. Ultimately Pence dealt with these in two ways. First, by sticking closer to his own position than to Trump's position. And second by claiming there was less difference than there is. Trump's problematic performance in the first debate, the vagueness of some Trump positions, and Trump's disastrous post-debate gave Pence room to maneuver. The unflappable Pence performance will likely steady some of conservatives who shuddered their way through the Trump performance in Debate 1 and its aftermath.
Pence likely staunched some of the bleeding the Trump campaign has suffered over the last week, and his performance might move the polling slightly back toward parity. But any substantial turn-around for Trump will depend upon the nominee at the top of the ticket turning in a better performance in the last two debates.
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