Lincoln and Douglas must be rolling over in their graves. Abraham Lincoln and Steven Douglas staged a series of debates in Illinois when they were running for the U. S. Senate. The brilliance of these two men captured the attention of the nation and propelled one of them to the White House.

I have read the Lincoln - Douglas debates and found them compelling. These two rustics sparred verbally but never engaged in the petty insults we see today. Certainly they “zinged” one another but you have the feeling that it was more banter than hate.

What made the classic American debate was that it was civil. The person who transcribed the debates even included the comments thrown out from the audience. Lincoln responded to those comments with his wry humor.

We have come a long, long way since those torch light debates.

The first two Republican debates were a circus. FOX News did a poor job of maintaining control and CNN’s Jack Tapper lost control in the second debate. The second one was a sham.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper moderated the first Democratic presidential debate. He said he hoped to avoid confrontations between the candidates. He said, “Look, these are all serious people. This is a serious debate. They want to talk about the issues and I want to give them an opportunity to do that.”

Cooper did just that. He was, by far, the most successful of the debate hosts.

So what happened in the second GOP debate? Were these also not “serious” candidates?

Before the second GOP debate CNN moderator Jake Tapper said he tried to “craft questions that, in most cases, pit candidates against the others.” He succeeded.

I have a problem with both the Cooper moderated debate and the Trapper moderated debate. Neither allowed the so-called marginal candidates to get in on the action.

Sen. Webb stood at the side in the Democratic debate for 10 minutes without uttering a word. The same thing happened in the two Republican debates.

This is probably to be expected in a televised debate. These are no longer public service exercises but a way to gain ratings and ad dollars. Remember CNN added a full hour to the second Republican debate to cash in on the show. It was an inexcusable cash grab.

By focusing on the one or two candidates at the top of the polls, the networks cheat the American people out of hearing the views of those “other” candidates.

Wouldn’t it be a better idea to ask one question and allow each candidate to answer? Sure, it might take some time but at least the people watching these brawls would come away better informed.

I have moderated a few forums here in Jefferson County. In each and every one, the hosts, either the Brookville and Punxsutawney chambers of Commerce or the Jefferson County Township Association, have made certain that I allow each candidate an opportunity to respond.

If we can do it here in Jefferson County surely a large news network like a CNN or FOX could do likewise.

But then again, up here in the “guns and Bible” belt, we care more about the facts than the ratings.


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