How would you reform the political debate process?
January 9th, 2012
03:27 PM ET

How would you reform the political debate process?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

There is a growing debate about the debates - and rightfully so.

A growing chorus of voices is suggesting that the presidential primary debate process has gotten out of hand and needs to be reined in.

I couldn't agree more. So far, there have been at least 15 debates between the Republican presidential wannabes - including two over a 12-hour period this weekend. And there are more to come.

Republican strategist Mark McKinnon writes in The Daily Beast that the primary debate process has "gone rogue." He suggests the media took complete control from the parties and the candidates and that the focus of these debates is now "entertainment and eyeballs."

McKinnon says as there are more and more debates, there is less and less time for the candidates to talk directly to voters on the campaign trail.

He also criticizes the format where the moderators are the story, questions are meant to spark conflict, some of the questions are downright silly, and serious questions are limited to 60-second solutions and 30-second rebuttals.

Plus, since media outlets can decide which candidates can participate, they effectively handicap the candidacy of those not allowed in.

McKinnon suggests that the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee should agree before 2016 to guidelines for their primary debates.

Several top Republicans agree that the party needs to take more control over the process.

But not everyone is on-board. Lower-tier candidates stand to benefit from more debates because it's free air time. Candidates like Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain jumped in the polls after their debate performances.

And news organizations have been getting big ratings from the many debates suggesting there is an appetite for them.
Here’s my question to you: How would you reform the political debate process?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

Posted by
Filed under: 2012 Election
soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. Mike S., New Orleans

    Let's have a bi-partisan panel of fact-checkers on the debate site who can access all the major databases and then call the candidates on their lies. It would be fun to watch them squirm.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  2. Jayne in NH

    I would love to see a debate where average people get to ask the questions. Mine would be, how many of you are taking advantage of "Obamacare" by keeping your 20-something children on the family health insurance policy?

    January 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  3. David R Bebeau,Springfield Missouri

    Of course Jack.I would quit advertizing the questions and then having them read notes on it.i would go with no notes
    or written questions...................and get down to the heart of the matter and see who's knees get weak.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  4. Joe R - Houston, TX

    Remove the mainstream news media and require complete answers to astute questions that are designed to confirm that candidates actually understand the issues.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  5. Tanya Roberts

    We need adults to run for office with adults running campaigns. What we see now will become really funny once the GOP has a candidate and all those who are being so unprofessional, disrespectful and immature now will get their egos in a twist trying to un-do what they previously said.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  6. Jk from Minnesota

    It needs to be open to any candidate running for the particular Party's nomination and not based off polls that aren't always the most accurate things. Americans may find a candidate they like better than the "annointed" candidates. The times I've heard Buddy Roemer speak, I'd like to know more about his stance on the issues are than the current clown show that has been on display.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  7. Noel Sivertson New Mexico

    I would limit the debate to those who average out to the top three in the polls and gove each three minutes to answer the questions and three miunutes for rebuttal from each of the other candidates. I would ask each candidate to submit 1 question to be asked of the other canddates. I would conduct the debates in a closed studio so they wouldn't be playing to an audience.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  8. Paul From Austin Texas

    Limit the number of early and actual debates after a candidate and running mate are selected. Satruday Night Live had it right we are at the 56 republican debate. The number I used may not be right but the gist is there. Enough is enough just how much of a sheep are the American people. I don't think as much as all theese clown think.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  9. Bizz, Quarryville Pennsylvania

    I don't know if you can. These guys might not know how to solve our country's problems, but they know how to be a politician and dance around the questions. Maybe when they go off on one of their rants telling people how great they are and what they done in the past instead of answering the question, they would receive an electric shock when the red light comes on or when they would interrupt another candidate. Other than that I would know what to tell you.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  10. Doug Ericson

    I think Romney got more camera time in any one debate, than Ron Paul got in all the debates combined. I am not a Paul supporter, but the unequal time the candidates get is embarrising. Doug. Pepperell, MA.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  11. Gerry

    The debate process is good. Gathering a true picture of the candidates and their history is sometimes clouded.

    On another note Jack, you solicit opinions but your screener (the politically correct Yoyo cops out to, "Moderation". ) I would expect that you would welcome all opinions however diverse as long as they are not obsene.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  12. Pete from Georgia

    How ??
    Well, I'd start with having true journalists................there's a few left out there.....................not biased, egotistical, show boats with an ideological agenda phrasing questions with only one thing in mind......................to destroy a candidate or make one look foolish, true journalists ONLY be allowed to moderate the Debate.
    Fat chance. It's all theatre...................a cruel deception.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  13. Lou, Fayetteville, NC

    Since we have learned very little, permit these fiascos to exist no more than 6 months prior to election.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  14. Greg in Arkansas

    I would pass out single shot dueling pistols to the candidates before the debate......and maybe....then, we could hear what each candidate has to OFFER rather than listen to the endless, baseless personal attacks that dominate the current format.......or perhaps.....install a "gong" that the moderator can clang when he knows that a candidate is lying or stretching the truth, either way, the debates would become more informative OR at least, more entertaining.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  15. John B.

    Any candidate that tells a lie during the debate should be barred from getting the nomination of the party.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  16. HJ - Saint Paul, MN

    I think they should have a real control over the time limits given to the candidates. I absolutely cannot stand when they go over the limits and tell the moderator they "need to get one last point across." The whole point of a debate is giving short, clear answers so we can understand their views. Its not so they can grandstand. I say install microphone cutoffs.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  17. Duane North Dakota

    Make the politicians ware jump suits like Nascar so the rest of us would know who their corporate sponsors are.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  18. Bill of New Mexico

    The candidate would not be allowed to hear the response to the question by the other candidates.

    The candidate would not hear the question until it was his time to answer.

    All candidates would answer the same question.

    If the candidate does not (or cannot) answer the question, the candidate receives a strike.

    The person asking the question decides whether or not the candidate actually answered the question.

    After 2 strikes, the candidate is out of that question session–plus, he misses the next question session.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  19. Richard Texas

    I would have all the political debaters wear shock collars that automatically zapped them each and every time they told a lie or a mistruth. What we would then see is some very nervous politicians and fewer debaters. All and all Jack it does not mater what these candidates want. They can only do what the congress will allow them. They can set all the agenda's they want to but the congress holds the purse strings. Nothing gets done without a majority consenting to it.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  20. John from Alabama

    Jack: Let networks like CNN, NBC, and ABC run the debates along with the League of Women Voters, or a newspaper with a good repudiation. Debates should have 3 to 4 subjects that might be covered, rather than, anything goes questions. Let the candidates have fair warning of what might be discuused before the debate. People watch debates want clear answers, which are genuine, and show the candidate can think on their feet. Professionalism, good audiences, and experts in certain fields might be ask to place questions to the candidates.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  21. Ed from MD

    Hook them up to lie detectors.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  22. Kenneth in California

    It isn't the debates that need reforming. Money has found a voice and now talks. Since the Supreme Court said campaign donations are a protected form of free speech. There is a new game of unlimited funding because of such an idiotic decision. Big money has guided the politicians in Washington, DC to their favor, and now can dictate which candidate will go to our nation’s capital. Super Political Action Committees are pumping millions into to the most persuasive media, television. The reality is, most of the electorate receives their news and information on TV. If not, the advertisers like the Pharmaceutical companies would not be spending billions on pushing pills in our living rooms.
    . Quote; Fred W. Friendly, former president of CBS News,” TV is bigger than any story it reports. It's the greatest teaching tool since the printing press”. The PAC men with their wallets are ready to teach.

    January 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  23. Salvatore

    Discuss the issues. Create 30-40 questions about key issues and put them online in a national poll. Example: "What would be your first step regarding international relations with Iran if you become president?". Take the top 10 questions from the poll and ask the same question of each candidate, giving them 60 seconds. After each has responded, they all get another 60 seconds to respond to any points made by any other candidate on that question. Then move onto the next question. Fair, balanced and informative. (From Buffalo, NY)

    January 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  24. Calvin Wadley

    For every "debate" sponsored by a media outlet, require the media outlet to provide 30 minutes of free air time to each candidate to actually fully answer some of the questions that cannot be answered in 60 seconds. This would probably stop the debates because the media, including CNN, would not be willing to actually provide this service to the country.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  25. Brad, Portland, OR

    I'd have a panel of overtly partisan moderators (think James Carville and Mary Matlin) asking the questions, and being allowed to engage in debate with the candidates. Neutral moderators are a failure.

    In other words, I want a moderator to speak up if a candidate says something that's factually incorrect, or dodges the question instead of keeping quiet like they do now.

    As it is now, the candidates can say anything they want. Lies go unchallenged, and the next day Politifact will list all the "Pants on Fire" lies in an article that few people will read.

    But 99% of the people who saw the debate will never know what was true and what was a lie.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  26. Wilhelm von Nord Bach

    I would go further than just reforming the "debates". we need the British system where ALL political baloney is BANNED from the airwaves until a couple months before an election.

    I think we would have a MUCH more civilized society.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  27. Dan from Stewartstown PA

    I think that both parties and the network should concur on questions prior to any debates. They can use an old fashioned tool called compromise to decide on the questions. Questions should be offered to the candidates on a rotating basis, with the 1st speaker getting 4 minutes, the next getting 3, etc. The caveat being each speaker subsequent to the first not repeat points made by prior speakers and if any candidate reverts to non-related talking points, they are cut off and may not continue their answer. Maybe we'll get to hear substantive answers to relevant questions.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  28. Loren

    I wouldn't change a thing. The media will rein in the debates when the public starts paying less attention. For now, the debates are the main stage, and if a politician doesn't have the ability to make the main stage, then why should we listen anyway?

    January 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  29. Gary H. Boyd

    There's no doubt the media has influenced the way debates are staged and conducted and that many of the questions posed to candidates are just plain silly. I suggest those conducting debates identify the significant issues confronting the nation and present them to the candidates in writing before hand so each candidate can, in turn, prepare their response for presentation at the debate. That would eliminate the nonsense and allow for a forthright explanation by each candidate on where they stand on specific issues. Too often the current system turns debates into side shows.

    Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona

    January 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  30. Bubba

    Limit the number of debates to no more than one a month. No more network sponsored debates. These things are now just like reality shows; all hype and no substance. And please, please please, networks like CNN, cut out the hours of 'so-called analysis' by your 'experts' telling us what we're supposed to think. Get them real jobs covering the news. This country came a long way before instant news and analysis and back flipping screens.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  31. Ed from California

    1. Allow all the candidates running for office, those w/money and those w/out money to speak in all debates.
    2. Give each candidate one try to answer the question. If the candidate doesn't answer the question, he/she is dismissed off the stage until the next debate. Why mess around.ll
    3. All of the candidates have to release tax records and personal records prior to running for office. We need to know who these people are on a personal and on a moral level.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  32. Larry -Denver

    First- who schedules all these debates? why so many? Who watches on Saturday night? or most other nights for that matter. Too many people not enough quality.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  33. Kim , Dodge City, Kansas

    Pandora's Box has been opened since the Kennedy / Nixon debate. Broadcast media is hooked on the revenue generated, candidates are now air-time junkies, and the platform is over crowded with people not even remotely qualified. I'm afraid reform, although sorely needed, is out of the question at this point. I don't think there is a politician out there that could withstand a classical collegiate debate format.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  34. K. Williams. from da Bronx

    Well jack, a would push it up. there should be atleast 1 debate per week,with the exception of that lame ABC debates on sat.this is must see TV.btw. I so miss the comic genius of Herman Cain.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  35. Herman Portland OR

    1) Make all candidates endorse their ads.
    2) If confronted by a candidate about the facts of the add they need to provide a true answer.
    3) Cap on the funds for TV advertising so all candidates can more equally.
    4) Less assumptive bias questing from the media

    January 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  36. Larry from Georgetown, Tx

    I bleive we should build a large arena outside in northern North Dakota and on April 1st have an old fashion gladiator fight to the death of all of the wannabes for office and of course the last person standing wins the nomination. This idea is about as dumb as the current process but would save a lot of time and money. These current ones are a joke.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  37. Oliver El Paso, TX

    Dose it have to be so long only the news media keep it going and going then there's Wolf and Jack whoopee!.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  38. Kevin in CA

    Jack, you got it wrong ... I wouldn't reform the debate process. It is the primary way to see what the candidates are made of and really thinking. With media coverage, the internet, Facebook, et al there is more than ample time to communicate their written scripts and stump speeches in the year preceding the election.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  39. Barbara in Sherman Oaks, CA

    Well, Jack, in the current crop of debate-ees, I'd say the solution is two words: Better candidates. Add to that candidates with more to do/say than simply bashing each other. This group apparently has no substantive answers or solutions, so it's just gloves off, bring out the mud pit and let 'em go at it. That said, any system in which Donald Trump could or would be considered as a moderator (worse yet, a candidate) is wrong from the ground up.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  40. Pete from Florida

    Allow NO lies, exaggerations, falsehoods and/or misleading statements. Televise on a delay, fact-check EVERY staement and assertion, and rebut/correct EVERY falsehoods immediately. Better yet, hook up every one of these clowns to a lie-detector for the entire debate. Meanwhile, how can a viewer tell when politicians are lying? Easy, their mouths are open and their lips are moving.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  41. Pat in Michigan

    Because it is becoming more and more like these "reality shows" where anything goes. I suggest we put each candidate in a soundproof booth with headphones and a pad for notes .Each microphone is opened for the prescribed time allotted then cut of at the buzzer. (gotta have a buzzer). In this way the candidates can't yell or interupt like some shows nowadays.They must cut to the point or be cutoff.
    How many days till the election Jack?

    January 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  42. LA Belle

    Why do politicians want to argue for over 2 years about who is the best when they actually say nothing of value. Don't they know Congress will null and void all of their solutions once they are in office?

    All the millions of campaign dollars could be used to pay-off the debt. Guess that makes to much sense to be considered.


    January 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  43. Debbie Loganville Ga

    A set budget on what a candidate can spend on their campaign. Have only 5 or 6 debates period. Begin the same and end the same with each one the debates The candidates are giving a pacific time to tell everyone what are their best accomplishments are (ever). Then each candidate should be ask the Exact same question and when they avoid answer they get a buzzer. Candidates should only answer the questions and not be allowed to brag about what they did or didn’t do. In the end they have 10 minutes to inform us what and how they would get congress to work together to achieve their goals if chosen to be President. Have computers ready to call them out on lies.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  44. Mel - Houston

    It simple Jack, restrict the electoral season to six months like every other nation in the world!

    January 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  45. tom bulger, Canandaigua, NY

    Time is wasted calling each other liars and hypocrites. A panel representing prominent fact checking organizations should score answers in real time. Truthiness scores should appear on the bottom of the screen. A candidate's debate time is shortened for each false, or misleading answer. By the end of the debate Ron Paul and the moderators will be having a private conversation and there will be no hyped spin talking points to sit through.

    January 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  46. Peg from NY

    Excellent question as the number of debates are getting out of control. We do not need so many but we do not need too few. One thing I am certain of is that George Stephonopolous was out of line on Saturday night. What is not needed are any moderators who behave as he did.

    Somehow, the RNC and DNC need to change the rules, so they are fair to all.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  47. Bob D Iowa

    When a national debate takes 10 minutes or more of the time to ask hard questions about Contraception you know that it has reached the point of no return. When was the last time you took 10 minutes to think of it?

    January 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  48. Paulette from Dallas,PA

    Have only 6 Debates during the Primary process and then 4 Debates during the General Election time srarting in August.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  49. David

    Run it like a Jerry Lewis telethon. Bombard us with it for one weekend a year then go away.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  50. Pete from Florida

    The current Republican debate process has been absolutely invaluable, providing very detailed insights into each of the candidates' ideology, record, positions and character. I don't care if it takes a HUNDRED debates, as long as it prevents a pretender rising to the throne. Think George W. Bush – maybe more debates would have kept him out of the Oval Office, and our country out of the toilet. However, it's easy to see why some candidates would prefer less (or even zero) debates, because debates help to expose their shortcomings.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  51. Man w/a plan

    Well for starters we shouldnt let liberals host the republican debates. That is horrible

    January 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  52. calaurore9

    The more debates, the merrier. It's one of the few primary source opportunities to assess the candidates. Yes, they are staged and follow up questions are sorely lacking, but it's better than hearing pundits blather. I find them all live entertainment.

    Carol in Northampton, Ma

    January 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  53. Jeff In Minnesota

    Have one open primary voting period in all 50 states on the second Tuesday in August before the November general election. Have the candidates register under whatever political party they intend to represent. Let the electorate vote for the candidate of each party they chose to have represent that party. People can vote for only a Democrat, only a Republican, the Republican and Democrat, whatever combination as long as they vote for one and only one person in each party. Yes, Republicans could mess with Democratic candidates and vice versa, but I really think this format would save us a lot of time, money and BS that surrounds today's electoral process. It would also get us out of this mess of having the far left and far right select our leaders through a totally messed up primary process when the bulk of the American electorate are moderates in the middle.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  54. Annie, Atlanta

    I'd put all the clowns up there on display for the whole world to see, not just a select few. This has been better than any reality tv show ever. Pass the popcorn, please.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  55. Ralph Nelson

    The problem isn't the debates, but that these are the worst candidates in my lifetime. The political parties need to be reformed (taken over by the people). The Republican Party should not be just a corrupt representative for the rich and Big Business (ALEC). And the Democrats have to stop being Santa Claus and understand their job is to properly manage the economy using properly applied (tax the rich fairly) Keynesian Economics. None of the Republican candidates are qualified to manage the nation's economy and Obama is too much Chicago School of Economics (old Republican economics from Nixon era). We need Kennedy-Clinton economics.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  56. dave in nashville

    Silly questions and some moderator's aside, put these debates on a channel without commercials and have them last for hours longer to get real answers instead of sound bites.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  57. TomInRochNY

    Get rid of the primary debates all together. Don't allow debates until each party has selected their candidate. Like minded people debating isn't nearly as informative as those with a difference of perspective. Oh, and limit the campaigning to three months or less. Robo calls during dinner just ticks people off.

    Tom, Rochester, NY

    January 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  58. Gail, Plano TX.

    Jack: News Flash! The Presidential debates are a joke! Didn't u know that? I, for instance, do not watch them. But it gives reporters something to do. Think of all the money that is wasted on this idiocy. We have become a nation of clowns & circuses!

    January 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  59. Terry Wells -Hoosier Hillbilly-Greensburg,IN

    How would you reform the political debate process?
    The candidates debate each other to exchange ideas how & why they'd make the best president. This is not particularly a concern
    for national mass media news, network or state and local revenue adventures or Donald Trump!
    The "point" of debates is for the people, of the people, and by 'damn' it should stay that way! They should be listened to by the people and left to the people to make the decisions on who they want to see as president. "WE" all know what really happens though-don't "WE"
    By the time the moderator gets thru twisting and turning the debate and then the national media gets their 2 cents worth in
    the public is as confused as they were before they heard the debate! "WE" all know what your trying to do ...sway the public-
    it 'works and you get paid well to do it. ( It's called GREED!)
    Questions should be selected from individuals in some fashion-
    candidates should have {{Equal}} time answering[[ no exceptions]][[with no interruptions]](((space divided among however many there are)))*each & every time there is a debate.
    So! Jack, you think you can make that happen? Wolf won't see it that way, neither will CNN.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  60. Karl in Flint

    How about each candidate has a sound-proof booth, like on the old "$64,000 Question". They are asked the question and have their minute to reply then the mike is cut off. NO EXCEPTIONS. The other can hear but can't rebut until it is their turn. The questions should be from the moderators with RNC/DNC approval. No more arguing... period. They now sound like a 6th grade debate team.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  61. Penny in Minnesota

    Jack, it seems like every weekend there's a GOP debate. I'm rather tired of the "tear down" rhetoric and want to hear about how they are going to create jobs and create opportunities for me and for my kids to succeed in the future. What I'd like to see is if actual voters, via You Tube or iReports, would ask the tough questions and not some network personality. Then we'll get some real answers.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  62. Michael Bindner, Alexandria, VA

    Ultimately, its up to the candidates and the sponsoring news organizaitons to decide whether debating is a good idea. They seem to have done their job this time by allowing people to have a look at candidates and make money for the networks. Once the candidates realize they are a cash cow, they will slow down the schedule on their own.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  63. Al

    First start with each candidate stating what positions he/she expects to be in the respective party platform. Then ask what he/she brings to the table beyond that. Then ask whose (names, not characteristics) advice he/she would seek in order to successfully administer the policy Lastly, ask the benchmarks that he/she will use to assess whether he/she is doing better than earlier executives.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  64. Dave - Phx

    These aren't debates as they do not provide any factual information.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  65. BILL, WI

    The first thing I would change is how a question is asked. Move away from this notion that an answer and a question have to be in a soundbite format. Ask a substantive question and let us hear an answer with clarity and depth. A debate should be a debate, not a process to make the life of a moderator easy.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  66. Adam - Florida

    The debates should be moderated by either NPR or C-Span. The news networks will only be allowed to broadcast the debate and not have closed access to make the debate their own. There should be one debate for each major topic and possibly more debates on certain topics due to their importance. Questions should be intelligent questions that are prepared by individuals who are experts in their fields. This would take away the medias abilities to make each debate into a reality television show and the questions would be questions that can trully judge a canidates knowledge and plans of attack. the 30 to 60 second sound bites should be done away with and each canidate should be given at least 3 minutes to speak their peace. Hostile attacks on other canidates should not be allowed in the debates, as they only serve the purpose of making the show into reality TV. The American public should be able to make up their own minds about each canidate and the addition of attacks is not needed during these debates.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  67. B. J., Quincy, Il

    They would get only a certain amount of air time to use.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  68. Chris, Ottawa Canada

    The best thing to do would be to get rid of the studio audience. That way, politicians can speak what's truly on their minds instead of what they think the audience wants to hear. Too often, politicians won't speak what's on their minds because they're afraid of being booed.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  69. Paul - North Carolina

    I would reform them as follows:
    1. There should be one debate 30 days before each primary election date.
    2. There should be fewer questions and candidates should have more time to answer.
    3. Rebuttles should be allowed only by the person named in the first answer.
    4. It shoyld be required that candidates answer the question asked, and only the question asked. If a neutral arbitrator determines that this rule has been violated a loud air horn should sound and the violator's microphone disabled. A second offense should result in that candidate being ejected.
    5. An independent fact checking panel should compile a veracity score for each candidate which would be announced immediately following the debate.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  70. Dave, Orlando, FL

    I would eliminate them entirely. Barring that, for plan B, I would make them real debates where the candidates actually debate each other one on one. If you did that Ron Paul would clean his opponents’ clocks and Jon Huntsman would mop the floor with the rest of the fools. Having a moderator ask questions which the multiple candidates are free to ignore or answer a question they wished they had been asked is pointless But I much prefer the former – plan A.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  71. Kirk (Apple Valley, MN)

    First, put a Truth-o-meter on the front of each podium and rate the candidates answers to questions. Second, have the candidates stand on electrified plates that will shock them when they make preposterous statements or outright lie. Thirdly, have the moderator(s) continue to ask the question when a candidate tries to evade an answer by saying something entirely off topic.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  72. Kelly Ontario, Canada

    I would have them moderated by someone gutsy enough to fact check the answers and call them out on their lies. As a matter of fact I would like journalists who cover politics to do the same!!

    January 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  73. Ken - Kingsport, TN

    Ask one real question for each debate and force each candidate to answer it in full detail instead of a thirty second soundbite. Example – Economy. Question: We keep hearing that the anti-business environment created by the Obama administration has forced the country's 'job creators' into a non-hiring practice. Please tell me how you would fix this, what kind of jobs will be created, and give me a number.

    I am tired of the rhetoric. Both parties have allowed a vast amount of manufacturing jobs to go overseas, displacing a large amount of Americans from jobs that will never, ever return. So, please, Mr. Politician, tell me what manufacturing jobs you are going to help create and give me a number so we can talk about that number the next time you run for political office. (Hint: They cannot and will not admit the truth that this practice of moving manufacturing overseas has literally economically crippled the most successful country in history.) I would just love to hear a politician tell me how he is going to personally create a job building something in a country where there is little innovation and no forward-looking ideas about building something new that cannot be built somewhere else in the world.

    Mr. Politician, you and your elite friends have sold out the long-term economic viability of this country to make another dollar.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  74. Michael, from Smiths, Alabama

    Why reform it? It gives Democratic voters somethng to laugh about, late-night talk shows something to joke about, and Republican voters something to be ashamed of. I'd leave it as it is.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm |

    I would make the candidates have at least a "snowballs chance in hell" of becoming President before letting them participate in these so-called Debates!

    January 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  76. Ray in Knoxville

    I'd mute the audio, Jack.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  77. Jenna Roseville CA

    How would you reform the political debate process?

    1. Candidates would NOT get the questions before the debate.
    2. There would be three people asking questions – one Conservative, one Liberal, one Independent.
    3. All candidates would be invited to the debate not just those that have x percentage points
    4. If a candidate makes a claim against another candidate then they also have to cite where they got that information from.
    5. Lastly I would limit the number of debates 1 a month is more than enough.

    Roseville CA

    January 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  78. Larry in Houston

    How would you reform the political debate process? This current election process is 200 + yrs old, Jack. It's an "antiquated" system. Before the internet, that was probably the best way to go. But now days, when everything is relayed at "real time" – such as: if someone in the state of washington is brushing their teeth, someone in the state of florida knows about it that instant, if you get my drift.

    In My Opinion, I would reform the process like this : all voting must be done the same day, with all states. And, if people want to know about the "records" of each and individual nominee, all they would have to do, is go to where the "facts" are, regarding each and every candidate, such as the internet, or wherever. And have the whole nation Vote, in a certain day, in a certain month. Iowa & N.H. doesn't represent the whole u.s. – IF you ever travel cities like Miami / San Francisco / L.A. / N.Y. Houston / Dallas / Cleveland / and a host of other cities (not mentioned) and states that dwarf the population of N.H. Or Iowa (even s.c. for that matter) it's really not fair to the rest of the country, Jack.
    Most of those people are small town people, and mostly white. (not trying to be discriminatory or a racist) ( 3 or 4 stoplights in a lot of those towns) in addition to the fact there are a lot of : "diners / drive-ins / & dives" so to speak.

    Larry in Houston

    January 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  79. Julie Ilacqua

    First I would limit the number of debates, secondly, I would give a slightly longer response time, and thirdly, I would have a real loud, honkin' buzzer that would go off everytime a candidate did not spend their time answering the question that was asked.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  80. Jim in upstate NY

    The campaign is too long and expensive, and I think so many debates are more annoying than helpful. I would like to see the campaign limited to six months, which would lessen the number of candidates and debates. I would like to see strict rules, one of them being no religious references.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  81. Curtis in Philadelphia

    For starters I would have all the candidates wear the logo's of their PACs on their chest like a NASCAR driver so we know who they really represent. Then I would "seed" the candidates as they do in a sports tournament, giving the long-shot, book promoters like Palin, and Cain lower rankings and have them debate the ones at the top of the polls one-on-one, winner advancing to the next round. If any of them misrepresent the constitution or a well-known historical fact, they would fall through the floor to a room where they'd be forced to watch either FOXNews or MSNBC. I'd do this until we were down to two and at that point it would go from debate, to pie eating contest, apple pie of course, whats more American than that Jack? Whom ever eats the most pie and doesn't throw-up wins their party's nomination. After all to have to deal with such a distasteful Congress, all you really need is a strong stomach.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  82. Mitoosense Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    The exposure overall is good. Slowly we get to witness the foot in mouth disease spreading. Watching most of the debates I can attest to the enlightenment it has brought to me. No wonder the 112 Congress is such a mess. Obama and Bush were both unqualified to run the country. Any candidate can win the White House. Bad Candidates cost more in advertisements. Have you noticed the money pouring in to put a Republican in the White House? Look no farther than the House of Represenatives to see whats comming

    January 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  83. marybeth, massachusetts


    I'd make all of the political participants wear jumpsuits (like Nascar) with logos of the corporations who have bought them, and I'd make whoever is hosting the debacles also put the corporate fliers on the podiums of the candidates whom they have bought. This way, we the American public will know precisely who (which corporation) has bought whom (which candidate).

    I would also make a point of including ALL of those who are running to participate, not just the top two according to the poll of the minute. All corporate voices need to be heard.

    And I think I'd restructure it like Miss America or Miss USA (those of you in the media can just ask the Donald how that beauty pageant is set up) when the final 5 or 10 candidates get to the question/interview stage. The moderator asks one question to one candidate at a time. The others are either taken out of hearing or the one getting the question is removed and isolated. The candidate is given a set amount of time to answer that question and no more.

    This way, the debates don't become a free-for-all and people can actually hear what the candidates have to say, although I suspect that the candidates just might start sounding like Miss USA and Miss America–they'll want to work for world peace.

    If the free-for-all doesn't work, then the debates need a better moderator–maybe handle it like moot court in law school–the candidates go before a panel of judges, they start to present their ideas, then the judges interrupt them and grill them on what they've said. Of course, the candidates would have to submit to the panel in advance a written description of the policies they would put into effect if they were President. Let the panel pick them apart, hammer them over inconsistencies, stupidity, ignorance of how government works, points made by their opponents, etc. Like appellate arguments and moot court, there is a time limit on how long candidates have to present their case. This means candidates couldn't talk over others, take longer than allowed.

    I'd also like to see the candidates set up in a dunking booth, like the kind you see at a county fair. Each time any of them tells a lie or stretches the truth, or just says something stupid, they get dunked. Maybe they'd learn to be more honest and the public would have an easy way to tell who's lying.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  84. Jay Briggs

    The moderator should open the debate by requiring each candidate to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth !!!!

    Jay South Carolina

    January 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  85. Steve S.

    Jack, Make it like the NFL playoffs. "Seed" the candidates and then have them debate one-on-one. The winner advances and the loser is permanently out of the race. That way, the whole thing will be over with in just a few weeks and we won't have to bother with an election......

    Steve S.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  86. Ron from Oklahoma

    Simple. Much like American Idol. Start with 20 candidates. Have call-in voting afterwards and boot the one with the fewest votes. Repeat. It's all entertainment anyway anymore. 🙂

    January 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  87. Bill from Utah

    The debate process does absolutely nothing to help me determine how capable a candidate is. In office, they will make no decisions in 60 seconds without advisors. I would prefer the excellent process Rick Warren used in 2008. Meet with the candidates 1 by 1, give them 10 questions to prepare for, 5 that would come off the cuff. Give them an unlimited amount of time to explain their positions. Later, give each a chance, 1 by 1, to comment on the positions of their competitors.

    A country is not led by someone who can regurgitate rhetoric. The right leader will be principled, thoughtful, and embrace data and input from competent staff and the public before making their decisions.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  88. George

    I say the more the merrier, Jack! Presidential campaigns these days are endurance races, not sprints; and, these debates keep the candidates on their toes. Additionally, the debates are really the only opportunities we, the people, have to see the candidates challenge each other directly. More people watch the debates than go to the town halls or in-person appearances by the candidates, so that has to lead to a more informed electorate, right? Keep them coming, Jack!

    -George from Wilton, CT

    January 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  89. Linda of Washington DC

    Quality over quantity. A panel of academics and policy wonks coming up with the basic questions, followed by questions from "ordinary" people. Equal time for both. Longer answers and fair follow-up responses. Inquiring minds (voters) really want and need to know a candidate in order to make an informed choice. Voting, the foundation of our democracy should be immune from the kind of shallow "gotcha" atmosphere that exists now.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  90. Roger in Dallas

    When we get to the actual debate between President Obama and whomever, let the two of them debate (as in the debate episode of The West Wing between Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda). Even though fictionalized, it was a real debate without all these 2 minute answers, 30 second responses, 1 minute rebuttals, etc. Let them really go at each other without all these stupid time constraints.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  91. Guy, North Bend, Or

    Fisrt, no debates until six months before the election. Then, just before each debate, all candidates must appear on a Jeopardy show.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  92. Peggy

    Jack, let's just be done with all of this political nonsense and appoint a king!

    January 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  93. Phil Tate

    Herd 'em all into the Octagon... "Cajun style!" Note: regardless of obviously discrepancy in weight class (good luck, Ron).

    January 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  94. Ray Evert

    How about "survivor" type format. Let's say there's eight original candidates. Following the first debate, viewers decide who is the biggest loser and toss him or her off the stage. The next debate would have seven candidates and so on until there's only one loser left.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  95. Chris

    I would tweak the style of the debates by proactively keeping track of how many times a candidate skips around answering a question, and also keeping track of the lies or inaccurate statements mentioned by a candidate. It would be a two part debate. First the regular typical moderation, then in the second half of the debate I would have each candidate confronted with questions they skipped and the statements they gave which were not true. That would test how cool they are under pressure.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  96. Dana Butler

    I am definitely tired of them Jack.I understand one's other view but from what I have watched they NEVER actually answer the moderators question, or they then proceed to tell mostly half-truths! I would agree with a lot of other viewers...PLEASE INSERT/ADD FACT CHECK to be aired afterwards.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  97. Charlies Gallo

    More Debates are what I crave, I could listen to them every day, It is there they can not escape, the stupid statement they do make.

    They control the scripted sound bites and ads, they do not control the debates.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  98. Nick Tokmin

    These Republican primaries and debates have been unbelievably comical and I would not be surprised if this whole thing is an April Fools Joke. I do agree that the debates have been striving for more entertainment value, CNN being guilty of that too. I mean your intros make it look like there is about to be a Boxing or UFC match, where are the Buffer brothers when you need them. I think everybody just needs to stop pretending that these debates have informational value and go all out. I would love to see a Survivor style debate where the candidates have to complete challenges and can vote each other off. I could see Mitt Romney do very well in a swimming contest, hence his amazing ability to flip flop.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  99. Don Carey

    Duct tape Jack. The first time a candidate doesn't answer the question duct tape should put put over their mouth and they should be made to stand there silently untill the next round of questions. Do it twice, and they get a dunce cap to boot!

    January 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  100. Cal in CA

    The white-collar-comedy-tour has been somewhat entertaining even if the characters are more fictional than factual. But does this TV series have to really go on this long?

    January 9, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  101. Renee Peoria,Ill

    The real problem is the entire process has been taken over by the 'reality tv' mentality. That means serious debate takes a backseat to sensationalism. Of course, you could say the same about a lot of other aspects of our society. But the best reform would be to require some proof of any statement – if they can't quote a valid statistic we can all look up that backs up whatever they're saying, they're out!

    January 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  102. Cee.La

    These debates are nothing more than air time, to peddle their lies...... I do wish that these candidates would answer the questions, forthrightly and honestly........they do not... and where are the Fact checkers?
    If all the money that is being thrown away on attack ads, etc was used to create jobs, and put America back to work....instead of more special interst......we would be in a better place......

    January 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  103. Rico M. in San Jose, CA

    Have ONLY weekly debates. No PAC/campaign funded commercials on the TV/Radio. This way all candidates will have equal exposure during debate times and we only hear ideas that come straight out of their mouths. Speaking of which, debates should have a fact check panel, which candidates must address in each successive debate.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  104. Lloyd from Fuquay Varina,NC

    Where is it written that a great debater would make a great President? Besides, opinions expressed in Debates are just that-opinions and would not pass LEGAL muster.. but they do make great sound bites. The time for Debates should be AFTER the Conventions so We can choose between the political agendas.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  105. Mark A. Weinberger, Knotts Island, NC

    You are correct Jack, I find most questions asked by commentators ludicrous. I have NOT heard one commentator ask the most important question of all; Wall Street SPECULATORS are destroying our economy by arbitrarily jacking-up the price of crude oil at their every whim, robbing the American People at the gas pump every day...Considering the fact that the Dodd/Frank Bill passed in 2011 was supposed to reign-in this practice, if you become president what will you do to stop the Wall Street SPECULATORS futures market unabated GREED?

    January 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  106. Dan Hite

    Fewer topics per debate. That way we can hear in detail the plan for each issue. Then we might be able to figure out where they stand on each of the issues. See how inline with the American middle class they are.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  107. Ben

    Each state should hold a committee hearing to question the candidates. Perhaps county representatives would make up the committees.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  108. Nancy, Tennessee

    No need to change the debates. The debates have shown me that I don't like any of the Republicans that are running. The candidates have put Social Security and Medicare up on the chop block more times than all the turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving. This doesn't set well with seniors.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  109. Bill Clement

    How about we ask questions from youtube and/or an equal forum from the average voter? You know tough questions not scripted from the corporate world.Ah a man can dream!

    January 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  110. Sweeper in Florida

    I would leave it alone, how else would be learn who has Electial Dysfunction

    January 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  111. Jim, Denver CO

    First, only have 6 debates in the period of time 12 months before the nomination convention. Second, all candidates are invited to attend and participate. Third, hold the debate in a closed studio without the audience. Fourth, have the moderators be credible journalists. Fifth, don't allow Fox News and its idiots to be involved. Sixth and final, put a doggie shock collar on the candidates and allow for real-time internet voting for which of the candidates gets a shock for going over their time limit or for just spewing rhetoric.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  112. Virginia

    First we need to get all of the money put of the process. If debates were the only way to know the candidates and independent fact checkers kept the candidates, I think we would be better informed and feel better about the whole process. All campaign advertising is suspect and must be disregarded. It should not be allowed as part of the process.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  113. Matt New Jersey

    How would you reform the political debate process?
    There is a very simple solution to this problem Jack. Invite all reputable candidates to the debates, including third party candidates and independent candidates and give them all equal time. Then the commentators at the debate could stop asking stupid questions the promote controversy and start asking questions that promote intelligent debate about the real topics that effect our society.
    The reason why this will never happen is because the existing two party system will not allow it. They don’t want a third party or independent candidates because the more candidates and parties we have the more money it will cost the democrat and republican parties to campaign. Instead of attacking one party they will have to attack multiple parties and candidates.
    The special interest groups don’t want a third party or independent candidates because it will cost them more money to bribe their politicians.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  114. Charlies Gallo from MA

    I would like to see them ALL answer the same questions, so their stands could be compared head to head.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  115. andyz Lynn, MA

    I would have a veracity meter chroma keyed on the screen to show if the answer by the candidate is true or an out and out lie. If caught lying the candidate would receive a jolt from a cattle prod. On-line betting would be allowed. Bettors could guess which candidate would be jolted This would not only create intense interest in the debates but also a large portion of the revenues could be applied to the national debt. The classic win-win situation.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  116. Raj, Toronto

    I would like to see more debates Jack, only if they were based on substance. The moderators seem to focus on superficial issues that do not address the issues that concern the nature of Americas problems. The media uses the debates either glorify or destroy political candidates. For example even though Ron Paul is polling second in New Hampshire, and finished in Iowa strong, the moderates asked him one question in the first half our of the debate of the weekend. His response to the question addressed your question Jack. Remember Jack Ron Paul only got 89 seconds in one of the other debates even though he was polling 1st and 2cd in Iowa at the time. The moderators state questions in a way that a cross examiner wants someone to miss up and incriminate themselves. What we need is a debate format that allows for longer response and a fact check of their statements during and after the debate. Place a ticker on the screen that shows their positions and other information that address the issue.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  117. Di

    Assign a topic, then allow a 3-4 minute prepared position statement from each candidate. Follow with questions from other candidates on his statement and subject area.
    This would facilitate comparisons and let us experience candidates' exchange based on their own thoughts and debate. Commentators could add in UTUBE questions that apply to discussion, and moderate candidate response questions.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  118. Nishad Tambe

    Let us write down 7 most important topics for this presidential election and have a 30 minute round table discussion without a moderator on each of the topics, the entire week, one topic per day. One powerful leader always emerges out of such discussions, whoever emerges the leader most number of times, wins.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  119. Charlies Gallo from MA

    2 Questions I wish were asked:

    You have all said you would "end regulations" for the economy to grow. But which regulations? There was a time when rivers caught fire (Cuyahoga River), homes were built over raw toxic waste (Love Canal), a million children with disabilities had no access to the public schools, people died by breathing the air (smog), and 1000's of babies were born with birth defects from unregulated drugs (Thalidomide), etc. Republican President Nixon created the EPA and Republican President Theodore Roosevelt created the FDA. Republican President Ford created the first federal regulatory program in education with a program for special needs children. Republican President Eisenhower warned: "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, by the military–industrial complex" and was responsible for one of the largest Infrastructure projects in American history (Interstate Highway System). These men were not Left-wing radical hippies. Which of these programs would you end?

    To all the candidates:
    As you know, the Social Security (FICA) payroll tax rate reduction expires at the end of February. Could you favor making this reduction permanent by ending the $110,000 cap on incomes that are taxed, while maintaining the present maximum benefit? Under the present system, the person who earns $110,000 pays the same exact amount in taxes as the person who earns $1,100,000. Adopting this program would mean that all Americans who earn under $110,000 would have a permanent reduction in their taxes, the system would be fairer since the tax would then become a defined flat tax for all Americans rather then the present regressive tax, and any excess would help reduce budget deficit by relieving the problem with the Social Security trust fund.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  120. craig in South Carolina

    I wouldn't because all that we are doing is replacing one lier thats in the white house for another .Why change it ,they're still gonna lie.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  121. Glen Ekstrom

    First off, please put the "Post A Comment" box at the top of the comments, not at the bottom. Thank you. Okay...

    1. Have the questions about issues, not persoanl squabbles.
    2. Have only one debate before each primary or caucus.
    3. Do not have liberal debate hosts/moderators for conservative debates & vice versa.
    4. Have rules of debating conduct outlined and taught to the candidates by the Dem. Nat. Party & the Rep. Nat. Party and have them signed & agreed upon by the candidates. If they break those rules during a debate, they will be removed from the debate and not allowed in upcoming debates. At this point in time, there are no rules of honor or conduct as far as the debates are concerned.
    5. Dismantle all of the Super Pacs.
    6. Levy fines against candidates who do not tell the truth in their advertising or speeches or debates. People need to here the truth, not lies, to make their decisions.
    7. Have independent non-biased "referees" report to the American people as to a candidate's "truth rating" in the things they say and do. Basically, keep the candidates truthful and when they are not, blow the whistle. There are so many lies and spins about the turth or untruths that need to be corrected.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |