(Sept. 28):  The shoutfests that pretend to be candidate debates these days have descended below embarrassing into the realm of sickening. It’s time to reestablish order and courtesy, with real enforcement.

The rules should be simple and straightforward, and they should start with “no interruptions.” Period.

Without further ado or explanation, here’s what should happen. First, all candidate microphones except that of the designated speaker should always be off. Nobody else but the designated speaker, or the moderators, should be heard. Ever.

For each question the moderator asks, all candidates would be allowed a chance to answer. Each would be allotted three minutes. With 15 seconds remaining in each answer, a clear but not overwhelming bell should ring a warning while an easily visible light comes on, both alerting the candidate that they have 15 seconds to wrap up. At the end of the three minutes, the microphone of that candidate should automatically turn off. Then the next candidate would be allowed the same three minutes to discuss the same topic. And then the next, and so on, until each has had a chance.

Smart candidates would learn, by the way, that it often will make a better impression to wrap up each answer early rather than using all the allotted time. Viewers actually like conciseness rather than answers that drone on too long.

Meanwhile, during each three-minute answer, the moderator who asked the question would be allowed to interrupt if someone has gone off topic, to redirect them to the topic. A question asked should be a question answered, rather than an opportunity for a soliloquy on whatever the candidate wants to spout off about. (Moderators should not interrupt to argue with the substance of the answers — they are not there to push a point of view — but only to ensure that candidates stay on topic.)…. [The full column is at this link.]


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