Rethinking the presidential debates

It’s time for a change. The fact is that today’s presidential debates are little more than air time for candidates to try to look good in front of the nation, to say sound bites that will be picked up by the media and to spin data so that they look like heroes while their opponents look like heartless criminals.

For many Americans who watch, it’s not about the politics. It’s not about the policy. For them, the debates are more of a game about seeing which candidate says something stupid first. But what’s even scarier are the tens of millions of Americans who aren’t involved, who aren’t participating in their government. This lack of care and interest could seriously threaten and jeopardize our American political system, which we treasure so much.

So, I say out with the old and in with the new. No longer should presidential debates be stifled by the antiquated policies of the Commission on Presidential Debates. It’s time for something new. To protect our democracy, we need to choose a debate format that appeals to the masses and gets mainstream America involved. So, I propose that the presidential debates be run by the NFL – the National Football League.

An NFL-run debate would provide so many benefits to all involved – the candidates, the networks, the media and, most importantly, the American people. These new debates would make issues and arguments much more clear. There would be no more “fuzzy math,” as George W. likes to say. Candidates would have to be honest. This honesty would be ensured by the NFL’s new debate policy, the candidate challenge system.

If there was a question as to the accuracy of what a candidate said, the other candidate could simply challenge it, just as coaches can challenge the accuracy of officials’ decisions on the playing field. At the start of each debate, the candidates will be issued three challenges. When a candidate challenges his opponent, the challenge process is set into motion.

Imagine this. William H. Rehnquist, chief justice of the Supreme Court, with his golden-striped robe seated behind a court bench on the debate floor. Next to him are the heads of the Congressional Budget Office, General Accounting Office and the Library of Congress. And at their fingertips, they have access to databases full of information. When the challenge is called, the team meets, researches and states the truth – live on national television. In order for this process to work, there will have to be some ground rules. Just like on the playing field, challenge time would have to be limited in order to preserve the flow of the debate. I say that five minutes is a good time limit for each challenge. Additionally, in order to prevent fraudulent challenges and as an incentive to keep candidates honest, the losing side of a challenge will lose an additional challenge, if it has one.

Instituting this challenge system would be beneficial to all involved with the debates. The mere fact that the NFL would be running the debates would greatly increase the viewership. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a debate run by the National Football League?

The increased viewership would help the candidates, as it would allow them to send their messages to more people. Additionally, the time provided during the challenges would allow the candidates to fix their makeup, drink some water and get some quick coaching from their staffs.

For the television networks, increased viewership is always beneficial. Plus, the five-minute challenge time would allow the networks to sell commercials while still having enough time to show some action shots of Rehnquist sifting through data and announcing his verdict.

This new debate format would help the people immensely by keeping the candidates honest. Now, if the candidates lie during the debates, they will be made to look like fools on national television.

Not only would it clear up any questions of “fuzzy math” or credible arguments, but the NFL’s new debate format would bring much needed life into the debates and will help attract mainstream American viewers to the political process.