Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eight’s a Crowd

New York Times: By Gail Collins
“I don’t take this personally,” says Dennis Kucinich.


“I take it as an assault on the democratic process itself.”

Well, just so it isn’t personal.

Kucinich ... was referring to The Whisper. This was a moment during a recent candidates’ forum at the N.A.A.C.P. convention. A microphone picked up John Edwards telling Hillary Clinton, sotto voce, that at some point down the line it would be nice to have debates “with a smaller group of people.” ...

. The presidential debates have come to resemble a police lineup with all the wrong suspects. The main action involves a moderator telling people that their 90 seconds are up. ...

As to the debates, the answer is simple. The networks should just do what they always do these days: Let America Decide. After every debate, the viewers could go online and vote for who they want to see go home. Ratings will soar. You would see Chris Dodd on the cover of In Touch.

True, Internet voting is inexact and subject to manipulation. But we’re talking about a ticket to 90 minutes on CNN, not a seat on the Security Council. It’s not as if you let somebody be president without winning the popular vote.

It's nice to have Gail Collins back on the op-ed page, writing in her own distinctive-voice instead of the high-pompous drone generally characteristic of the official Times editorials. She has nearly the verve of the estimable Ms. Dowd, but more of a moral center (rich and kind of chewy). Delicious.

But I would regret the premature dismissal of folks like Kucinich and Ron Paul (not sure whether Mike Gravel also fits in that company, although his commercial is up there with Hillary's, and his silence beats her theme song) from the joint press conferences laughingly termed debates. It would be a stretch--and an unfunny joke-- to say they keep things honest (I'm not sure anything would*). But I'm pleased to have pre-digested health plans challenged by an advocate of single payer (apparently contra Ms Collins, to my regret), and someone challenging this insane war among the Republicans.

*Actually, here's an idea: instead of Wolf Blitzer, how about turning over complete control over format and questioning to Bill Maher and or Jon Stewart, perhaps with Colbert in tow to provide (laughable) ideological balance? We might even learn something real about the candidates--which probably guarantees it won't happen. But maybe when Kucinich, Gravel and Paul are voted off the stage, they will agree to such an event. Now that would deserve an audience.

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