I watched the McCain-Obama debate this week and once again was disappointed. It wasn’t because of the candidates because I think they would be capable of better interaction if there were better moderators and less time constraints. This time we had Tom Brokaw, late of the NBC Nightly News. Tom is 68 now and seems set in his ways as to how a debate should be run. He asked the usual questions that we have heard numerous times about the economy and foreign policy with something about health care thrown in. I was hoping for something about gun control or maybe gay marriage. Immigration is a white hot item especially in Arizona. How about that?
The whole thing seemed so scripted that they could have used actors to portray McCain and Obama. Brokaw was constantly checking his watch as the dreaded red, yellow, and green lights kept prompting the candidates to time their answers to fit the time frame. To make matters worse, at the end when the candidates met to shake hands, they were scolded by Brokaw to please move aside so he could read the TelePrompter!
Please don’t think that I am ganging up on Brokaw. I was a fan of his for many years and thought he usually did a good job at NBC. It’s just that he is not a good debate moderator when he lobs rhetorical questions at the candidates and checks his watch every minute. It’s not entirely his fault, he has a boss too. The same goes for Jim Lehrer of PBS. He’s a good newsman but does he really need to tell the candidates to "look at each other."?
I think the networks need to cut back on the stodginess of the debates and have a wide open time frame. If a good discussion gets under way, let the guys go at it. If it goes past the 6 to 8 time slot, fine. We will happily wait an extra hour for "Boston Legal" to watch a lively debate. After all, the networks delay programming to finish NFL games that go long.
Also, we need better moderators. Brokaw and Lehrer are too boring. If they weren’t dead, I would nominate Sam Kinison and George Carlin. Those guys would keep everyone awake! Since they are unavailable, how about Jon Stewart or David Letterman?
Of course I jest. But, wouldn’t it be fun to see the debates loosen up? Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen. It might delay the latest Taco Bell commercial.