Building up to the first presidential debate of the 2016 Election by Republican Nominee, Donald Trump and Democratic Nominee, Hilary Clinton on CNN one thing was clear: fireworks were going to fly and heated discussions were going to take place. Although the Debate was exciting, it lacked a major quality and it’s not to the fault of the candidates. It lacked pertinent conversation and that is undoubtedly the fault of CNN and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).
According to their website, the CPD was founded in 1987 in order to help provide the best information to voters during debates. What it really should have said was something along the lines of, making the candidates look as best as possible, limit the questions that the moderator can really ask and steer around any question that might actually be pertinent to the voter.
Let’s start with the moderator, Lester Holt. He walks out on stage and gives a short monologue about how it should really just be the two candidates on stage without a presence of a moderator. Holt’s monologue basically says that the moderator should let the candidate say what ever they want without interruption or consequence. He is wrong, the moderator is just as important as the candidates. The debate stage at Hofstra University should have been treated as a courtroom, Holt is the lawyer; Clinton and Trump are the people on the witness stand. Holt did write the questions by himself, but the debate is structured and it really doesn’t allow him to ask the right questions because he doesn’t have the time to follow up, therefore, his questions are limited.
Nonetheless, Holt should be held accountable because he doesn’t ask follow-up questions. Starting with Clinton’s opening statement in the “Achieving Prosperity Section” she lays out a perfect society that we should achieve but there is no explanation behind her. Holt needed to ask a follow up about how Clinton would achieve this, but he didn’t. Then he just moved onto Trump’s opening statement, where he talked about how jobs are leaving America and how it’s a terrible situation but he does not offer any facts to back up his claim. It’s typical Trump fashion; he talks a big game with little factual backup. Where is the follow up question for Trump to provide factual evidence that all of our jobs are leaving to Mexico?
He provides some sort of follow up but Trump dances around the question and Holt doesn’t hold him accountable. It is absolutely inexcusable and it lets the candidates get away with saying just about everything that comes out of their mouth. Holt got walked all over all night. He is the Head anchor of NBC’s Nightly News and he doesn’t stand up for himself as a journalist or a moderator. Holt just lets the candidates spout off in any direction, and it is ridiculous. These debates are a defining factor in the American electoral process and Holt butchers it.
Next, the structure is a terrible thanks to the CPD. At some points I found myself feeling bad for Lester Holt because he couldn’t get a follow up question or a word in edge wise thanks to the structure. A 90-minute debate should be enough to inform voters about what they need to know when they step in the voting booth. However the CPD does not want to make a candidate look terrible so they structure it into three sections where at some point the moderator is forced to move on and can not ask a follow up question. The CPD should make it so that the moderator can control when they move on, it should not be as structured as it is. When the moderator is satisfied with an answer, then they move on to the next topic.
It’s all probably wishful thinking that a debate stage could be treated like a courtroom. The fact of the matter is, there are just too many hands in the presidential debate pot in order to create some real sort of meaningful format change, not the phony change we saw in 2012. The debates are useless because they mislead the undecided voter. They don’t provide the answers to questions that are actually important to the average American, instead they paint a façade, they make the voter think that the question is being answered but unless the voter is an in depth political analyst, they wouldn’t know any better. Its how we got in a situation with the two worst candidates we have ever seen. These phony debates are the reason that people like Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton rise to the top. They don’t offer a true representation of who the proper candidate is. Instead this format allows the loons to make a lot of noise and talk the most, thus giving them most publicity and ultimately giving them the most votes.