Bring on the debates

Published 3:02 am Friday, June 6, 2008

By Staff
Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, should accept the offer made by John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, to debate each other in a series of town-hall meetings.
If for no other reason than to explain their views on important issues and offer solutions to problems faced by Americans, the two should take the town-hall approach to campaigning.
The idea of 10 town-hall-type meetings should appeal to voters. Spread out over the coming months, the meetings would provide excellent forums for McCain and Obama to inform voters about what they would do about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, fix the nation’s economy, developing an energy policy and other pressing problems and issues.
Their remarks and responses during such meetings would allow voters to see the differences between the two candidates, differences that would no doubt play a key role in voters determining which candidate, if either one, they would support. To make the meetings more interesting, it wouldn’t hurt to include a third-party candidate, say the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr.
Why include a third-party candidate? Having more choices is a good thing for voters to have. A third person taking part in the meetings means more views and solutions from which to choose.
Although it would be a good thing to have another person debating during those meetings, don’t look for it to happen. Both elements of the two-party system that has a stranglehold on American politics won’t let it happen. And that’s a shame. More and more American voters are looking for options to the Democratic and Republican parties. They deserve those options.
McCain believes the town-hall format provides an intimate forum where the give-and-take between a candidate and the audience provides an opportunity for real interaction and is more revealing than formal televised debates.
Obama may have expected McCain to make an offer regarding town-hall meetings.
Obama may prefer a debate format that is less structured and longer. That’s the message his campaign manager, David Plouffe, gave Wednesday as he indicated a format like the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 would be acceptable to Obama. During those seven Lincoln-Douglas debates, held during Lincoln’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas in Illinois, one candidate spoke for an hour, the other for an hour and a half, and the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute rebuttal.
McCain and Obama should do what’s needed to make sure these debates happen, even if they are just between them and no other candidates. The two public servants would indeed be doing the public a service by debating the issues and talking about their solutions to problems.
After the debates, voters would be in a better position to pick the candidate they believe will turn words into actions that will take this nation where it needs to go.