Sorry for my absence in recent days, family time on Thanksgiving takes precedence. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A reader sent this in and I think it’s worthy of a discussion. Since 2008 and 2012, many voters have complained that the current presidential debate system, spearheaded by the Commission on Presidential Debates, is a “closed process” which excludes candidates outside the two major parties. Several ideas have been tossed around but here is, as described by the author, Zak Carter, a “4 point plan to restore open and honest debates in 2016 and let alternative voices and ideas be heard.”

  1. More celebrity moderators. Larry King and Thom Hartmann generated significant amounts of press for those debates, and we plan on bringing in more names the entire world knows and cameras can’t help but follow to moderate the debates in 2016. (Agents for both Jon Stewart and Phil Donahue were interested if we had been in NYC, as were Ricki Lake and Martin Sheen’s agents had we been in LA.)
  2. Build a massive coalition. We intend to expand on the 57 media and organization sponsors F&E had for the 2012 debates,(These sponsors paid nothing, but helped spread word of the debates before they aired) and we believe that America’s presidential debates should be run by a diverse coalition that well represents America and the world rather than any single organization. In addition, RT America, Al Jazeera, Free Speech TV, Ora.tv, Link TV, Stitcher Radio, and CSPAN all broadcast the 2012 debates, and we’re going to work hard to get at least one of the major networks to join that list and more in 2016.
  3. In the summer of 2012 a handful of Gary Johnson supporters were able to get through to 2 companies and 1 organization (Phillips, BBH New York and the YWCA) that had been sponsors of the Commission on Presidential Debates and educate them about their debates being closed. We were late on the ball in trying to bring them on as sponsors of the debates in 2012, but we plan on really promoting this approach in 2016 to starve the CPD of their sponsorship dollars, and doing all we can to welcome these companies and organizations on as coalition members of the open debates. If we can get just one of them to join us, it will create an opportunity for a national news story.
  4. At least 10 debates. We’ll start the 2016 debates in the early summer, and space them out so that the last one takes place right before the CPD’s start. Last year viewers could vote online for their favorites, and I plan on expanding that to voting via text message, with one candidate going home after every debate until 2 are left at the last debate. The plan is to create demand for the candidates to be included in the CPD’s events. If they don’t allow them to their debate, the American people will become very aware of the fraud, and we’ll publicly invite the D/R candidates to our platform while we continue hosting debates with our remaining candidates on the same nights the CPD’s are held to include the VP’s. We would ignore them just as they’ve ignored the disenfranchised party candidates.

So, what do you think? Can something like this ever win the support and blessing of the major parties to participate in or does that even matter? Is 10 debates too many or not enough? What about celebrity moderators?

23 COMMENTS

  1. I take it that this is the same Zak Carter, a media liaison for Ron Paul, who was discharged from the US Army after endorsing Congressman Paul while still in uniform? The 4 items listed sound like a very campaign-controlled environmental situation. Celebrities and well known newscasters should be a No-No as the world already knows their political views and the form of questions they would present. And to let the public vote online as to which candidate is to be dropped from the debate’s line-up not only suggests fraud but is too much like Dancing with the Stars.

  2. I agree with Tess Trueheart. Debates are usually between the two ‘final’ candidates but I do believe they should include the 3rd party candidate. Limiting the debate to the two ‘major party’ candidates implies those are the only choices and they are NOT. The true problem lies in our primary process (as well as the poor selections Repubs have had the past few elections)… I think the process needs to be reworked from the primaries… we should see debate amongst, say, all running as a conservative candidates. AND, primaries (save a few for sport) should all be held on the SAME day. I’ve lived in two different states for the last two Pres elections and I am sick of having ‘my’ candidate dictated to me by less-than-conservative conservative states. Or at least in the same week with results not published until after ALL have been counted. The way things are done now are just pandering to the media and thats NOT what elections should be about!

    • Here’s a better reason to have a 3rd or 4th candidate on the stage. Right now, the candidates know what the questions are going to be ahead of time and they can (mostly) predict what the other guy is going to say. So there’s this chess game that happens before the “debate” where the responses are hashed out. Everything you hear at the debate is a prepared response.

      If we put a 3rd person in the ring it would change the whole dynamic. It would make both candidates answer questions they don’t want to answer.

  3. Why would either of the parties support something like this? It doesn’t benefit them.

    The only way it would change is enough people demanded that it change. But people don’t.

    • Ryan…this proposed Zac Carter plan is not sanctioned by the traditional two parties. It is a third party coalition and I do think they should be able to participate in all presidential (etc) debates. To be included in the presidential debates, Ron Paul had to list his party affiliation as Republican. The Commission on Presidential Debates is Co-Chaired by Democrat Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary in the White House under President Bill Clinton and former Republican National Committee head Frank Fahrenkopf, presently ceo of the American Gaming Association. The presidential debate commission relies on soft money funding from Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris, Prudential, AT&T and the International Bottled Water Association so they can advertise they are not taxpayer funded. Judicial Watch, Common Cause, and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader,fought (and lost) a pitched battle for a place in the debates during his 2000 presidential campaign. Presently, Green Party’s Jill Stein, Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson, and Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode, are requesting debate spots and more open formats. It’a a safe bet their dogs won’t hunt in the next presidential debates.

  4. Nate – the 2012 1st debate (Oct 3) seemed neutral by PBS’s Leher with neither party knowing questions ahead of time. the second and third debates seemed like Obama knew the questions ahead of time and the Moderators (Crowley / Schieffer) were part of the Democratic Party.

    How does CPD 1) Assure neutral moderators 2) Questions not provided to candidates ahead of time 3) Pressing and Pertinent questions of policy – not social or personal questions ??

    • I actually prefer the format of multiple moderators from multiple news sources (and political backgrounds) questioning the candidates. This way there is a more even distribution of the questions and less moderator bias can be introduced.

      As far as personal questions go, unless it’s totally unfair, candidates should be prepared to answer any question that comes at them. They are, after all, running for the highest office in the land.

      • People threw a fit when Candy dared to interject a comment into the debate she moderated. While I think the outcry was overblown I do think moderators should try to remain impartial and concern themselves with administering debate. And I think the moderators did that pretty well the last time around.

        The problem is any candidate is limited in the points they can raise by their own special vulnerabilities to counterattack. For example, Romney was rich. Obama had failed to reduce unemployment substantially. Etc. They couldn’t attack on points where their weaknesses could be thrown back in their faces.

        The candidates prep teams do an incredible amount of work beforehand going through possible scenarios. If I say this, he’ll say that. If he says that I’ll say this. And it’s not hard to guess what the other guy’s going to say. The whole thing is pretty much predetermined before it even starts.

        A third party would change that dynamic.

  5. It doesn’t make a difference who the moderators are until the MSM is no longer wedded to the Progressive wing? The MSM can’t let Progressive candidates fail…..they are to big to fail. We have recently been deluged with reminiscing on how JFK’s Camelot utopia didn’t fail it was murdered. The current President (who is constantly pictured with a halo) program of Obamacare didn’t fail it was held hostage by terrorist and racist. And now we go on to Eva Peron who no doubt in 2016 will be portrayed as “Joan of Arc” fighting against the republican war on women.

    These debates are a circus side show where the public will remember who is tanned and composed, a quip like “Well there you go again” or a candidate stating Poland isn’t under Communist rule. The debates nor the campaigns haven’t covered any pressing issues in decades and until they do the publics dissatisfaction with either party is proof the last thing we need is 10 debates to additionally bore us. As far as pandering to celebrities ego’s like Martin Sheen or Jon Stewart to moderate the debates it would only continue to lower the office of President than it has been with appearances on Leno, Letterman, The View or answering asinine questions like what type underwear do you prefer? This type of coverage is aimed at low information voters who are satisfied with wanting the president to appear as the guy next door who you can have a beer with. When your candidate doesn’t believe in “Americas exceptionalism” you can’t expect to get exceptional candidates.

    • Bob — I agree 90% with your post.

      And 100% with your conclusion: “When your candidate doesn’t believe in “Americas exceptionalism” you can’t expect to get exceptional candidates.”

      The current “debates” are nothing but an MSM orchestration to dumb us down, in order to HOPEFULLY accept the lesser of two evils, NOT who actually is best of US!

  6. In 1988, the League of Women Voters dropped their sponsorship of the presidential debates. Their reason: The presidential hopefuls that year was George Herbert Walker Bush and Michael Stanley Dukakis. Campaign managers for both men met and, collectively, prepared 16 pages of conditions not subject to negotiation. They would control the selection of questioners, the subject matter, the composition of the audience, and hall access for the press. These conditions are still in effect today.

    My greatest complaints lie with the presidential debaters themselves. The crude ones that cannot abide by the rules and regulations of debates. Refusing to stop talking when their allotted time is up, loudly talking over another speaker, speaking out of turn, eye rolling, etc. I say: give the moderator a button to silence their mike and a taser for whatever else.

  7. Nate — on your query: “Can something like this ever win the support and blessing of the major parties to participate in…”

    The answer is NO. Neither care a whit about US, but only about getting reelected!

    Our one party system (under the guise of two: “dems” and “repubs”) stands for total people control, so will never allow anything but an MSM controlled circus (and bread for the masses during commercial breaks) while posing their losers as the ONLY ONES Americans can vote for!

    Only on the internet can this shame be exposed — so turn off your TV America..,time to wake up!

  8. Thank you so much for the lively debate on this subject here.

    Tess, full disclosure, I am the same Zak Carter who was discharged from the Army after making a video in support of Ron Paul late 2007. However I never was his media liaison in an official capacity, though as a volunteer I did line up interviews for people like Huffington Post contributor Robin Koerner and Colonel Doug Macgregor.

    Last year I worked as Free and Equal Election Foundation’s communications director, and started the ball rolling on getting Larry King and Thom Hartmann to moderate the two debates we produced – and I understand your concern with celebrities taking away from the seriousness of what is being debated by the candidates, but the reality is that unfortunately without the celebrities, no one would have talked about the debates in the MSM and our audience would have been much smaller. I also understand your concern with public voting for the candidates giving this a reality TV cheapness, but we want the public to be very engaged with our debates and that and asking our supporters to submit questions that the candidates won’t know till they are asked them seem to us the best way to keep everyone engaged. We are very open to hearing other suggestions you may have though.

    I’d also like to let you all know that we just launched our coalition for open debates website –

    http://opendebates2016.com/

    If there is anything on the site that any of you here are uncomfortable with, please let me know. We want this coalition to be something the entire country would be comfortable supporting and joining.

    In Liberty, Zak Carter
    [email protected]

    • Zak – it is a shame to see what we agreed to and swore to defend, crumbling, and feel helpless about it. I applaud your work.

      I ask you take into consideration for debates that the questions are vetted and unknown to candidates before hand. MSM is liberal based and tends to share questions with Democrats before the debates (as in the 2nd and 3rd Presidential in ’12). Hopefully moderators are evenly split between ideologies and maybe the questions mixed among moderators – and based on policies, strategies, and size of government – leaving personal liberties off the table. we have more than enough laws on the books already about 1st Amendment Rights.

      I also think that Congress should vet all candidates and release information through CSPAN and constituents of each Congressperson by email or letter.

      [email protected] / http://Reusser.US

    • Zak Carter,

      your proposed plan is nearly superb.

      so i applaud you, sir!

      only concern is online voting off till only two remain (it must be two at most, since if more are left, MSM will never allow their participation claiming they are more than the rest) — unless some program is used, whereby liberal-robots cannot multi-vote, i’m afraid this voting-off will become a travesty.

      thank you for your patriotism, sir!

  9. Zak Carter…An unexpected reply. I read your website with great interest. As a member of the League of Women Voters, I appreciate your comments on why the League stopped their sponsorship of the Presidential Debates. The facts are not well known.

    This is just my opinion: I still think celebrity hosts are mistakes. You may get a lot of viewers who tune in for that sole reason but what are they really viewing? The host..what he or she may be wearing or do they just want to know if Larry King is still alive. Use newscasters (with no comedic lines), each of a different party affiliation and you will have a massive audience of “over forty” viewers. Therein, lies massive votes (just ask President Obama).

    To let viewer’s online votes cast a debater off the show is offensive to me. I base this on the Republican Debates on which Ron Paul appeared. He was rarely ask a question…not always allowed to fully express himself. He was a gentleman and never talked loudly, or over, another speaker and he appeared the loser. To update myself, I am not a fan of Dr Paul, but he was dealt a grave injustice.

  10. The open honest debate comes down to the news media and what the candidates are willing to expose themselves to. Liberal candidates steer away from honest interviews and debates because America is a center right country. Conservatives steer away from dishonest interviews and debates….because America is a center right country and dishonest media and moderators stage the questions to their ideological advantage.

    I would like to see debate moderated by Bill O’Rielly, followed by a debate moderated by a debate moderated by Chris Matthews, followed by a debate moderated by Jesse Ventura, followed by a debate moderated by Bill Maher, followed by a debate moderated by Rick Warren.

    7 topic chosen by moderator, 3 topics chosen by each candidate. At least 1 blind debate where topics are not known in advance and moderator is not known in advance….don’t know how you’ll do that one.

    I also like Gingrich’s idea of 90 minute debate without a moderator.

    • Josh: I would go you one better. It’s repeating something on another thread, but I think if there are two candidates, there should be two moderators. I would LOVE to see Rachel Maddow fry the Republican, and I would LOVE to see Ann Coulter toast the Democrat. These two women would not pull punches, and we’d get to real issues.

      BUT–I don’t think it should be limited to two candidates, and the simple solution is, as we discussed last year–ANY candidate who gets on enough state ballots to conceivably win 270 electoral votes MUST be allowed to be on the stage, because they have a chance to win.

      Imagine if the debates going into November had several candidates, and were as spirited and unpredictable as the Republican Primary debates last year. Grab your popcorn and see a real show!

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