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Republicans Have Actual Good Idea to Improve Presidential Primaries

March 22, 2013

During the 2012 presidential primaries, many conservatives complained about the media figures who moderated the 800 or so debates that the Republican candidates had to suffer through. Their beef was that these journalists, being journalists, were obviously in the tank for Barack Obama and could not be trusted to treat Republicans fairly. That wasn't really the problem, though. The problem was that most of the journalists who moderate presidential debates ask terrible questions, meant more to put candidates on the spot or produce a "gaffe" than to actually illuminate anything useful about them. I don't know how many times they have to ask inane questions like "What's your favorite Bible verse?" or whether the candidates prefer Elvis to Johnny Cash or deep dish to thin crust (yes, those were actually the topic of debate questions) before they start turning inward and wondering if they might be more substantive, but apparently the answer is never.

So the Republican National Committee is wondering whether it might take control of these things away from the media, both to reduce their number and to choose their own moderators, according to a story in the Daily Caller. Your first response might be, "Well, they just want their candidates to avoid the tough questions," but the truth is that this is a great idea.

What if, for example, you had debates about particular topics that were moderated by?get ready to have your mind blown?people who actually knew something about those topics? You could have foreign policy experts moderate a debate about foreign policy, or a couple of economists moderate a debate about the economy. That way they could not only ask substantive questions but correct the candidates in real time when they distort the truth, as they inevitably will from time to time.

Our big-time journalists have pretty well proven themselves incapable of doing this well (though some are worse than others), so taking the responsibility away from them seems like a fine idea. Of course, it's possible you could come up with something even more idiotic ? in that story, they quote Ari Fleischer saying,"What if Ed Gillespie moderated the debate and drilled candidates with questions that are legitimate and hard-hitting?" Ed Gillespie would be pretty much my last choice, unless you were looking for hard-hitting questions like, "Ronald Reagan: greatest president since Lincoln, or greatest president, period?" But even a Republican debate with right-leaning experts would end up being far more interesting and useful to voters than what we've seen before. And the Democratic party ought to consider it, too.

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