Monday, November 2, 2015

In Which We Discuss The Scripting Of Debates

Since Kennedy destroyed Nixon in the 1960 Presidential Debate (unless you were listening on the radio, in which case Nixon smashed Kennedy) a great deal of thought has gone into how debates are structured and the subtle details thereof.  Rarely, however, do we get a behind-the-scenes look at how that process works.  At the time of this writing the major contenders for the Republican Presidential Nomination are engaged in a lengthy primary battle and debates are a big part of that; problems with the debate format, and in particular the most recent CNBC debate, have sparked a campaign-revolt against the RNC on the subject of debates.

This morning a letter from Ben Ginsberg, who has been tapped to help the campaign negotiate collectively (an irony that should not go unobserved, given the fervently anti-union position of everyone involved), was leaked to the public.  The letter enumerates the demands that the campaigns wish to make and, while some items are more obvious than others, taken as a whole it reveals a great deal about the debate process and how debates are viewed from within the political machines they serve.  You can find the full letter here at the Washington Post, but I wanted to go through the demands themselves to explore the meaning behind the requests.