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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  A Few Clouds
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CITIZEN DAVE

Citizen Dave: Are debates really the best way for vetting candidates?


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This series of debates has been so awful that it might be time to rethink the whole notion that this is a valuable way to judge candidates.

Maybe it's just bad chemistry between the President and Mitt Romney, between Biden and Ryan, and between Tammy and Tommy. These pairs seem to genuinely dislike each other and they don't seem to even respect one another as worthy adversaries.

Maybe it's a set of moderators and formats that allowed the debates to turn, not into civil and lively conversations, but into bickering matches, not much better than bar room banter.

Or maybe the candidates are just reflecting the polarized nature of American politics right now.

But whatever the reason, the debates aren't working to shed any light on the substance of the candidates' differences. You have Mitt Romney asking the President about his pension so he can say "gotcha" about Cayman Islands investments. You have Tommy flubbing the name of the organization he was accusing Tammy of getting money from -- it was the evil sounding "Council for a Livable World," not the equally menacing "Council for a Living Earth" as Tommy suggested. But had he been able to correctly name the organization, he wanted to say "gotcha" about Tammy being soft on Iran. You have Joe Biden reacting so sophomorically to everything Paul Ryan said that he actually made the guy who wants to take away your Medicare look sympathetic.

When I was in office, the most important skill I had was to identify people I could trust for their knowledge and judgment and then ask them good questions. That's not something that shows up in a debate.

Is the ability to memorize a bunch of facts, to deliver a rehearsed punch line, and to talk over your opponent really any indication that you would be good at the job?

All Barack Obama did was save us from a second Great Depression and reform health care. So, he deserved to lose several points in the polls because he looked tired and disengaged at one debate?

On the other side of the ledger, Sarah Palin actually performed pretty well in her debate against Biden. Did that one performance prove that she was up for the job?

After last night, we've got just one more of these things, the final debate between Tammy and Tommy. Then let's ask ourselves what debates accomplish and if there is a way they can be improved or replaced.

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