Paul Greenberg

Not for the first time, one wonders: Why have a moderator when all that's really needed is a timekeeper? Why invite somebody from that incessant third party of American politics, the omnipresent media, to take part in what's supposed to be a two-party system? Who nominated Jim Lehrer for president? Don't the candidates themselves posture enough? Do we really need another source of pomp and self-promotion in an already rhetoric-drenched presidential campaign? Isn't the job of the media to cover the news, not make it? Yet when the media is represented at a presidential debate (which really isn't a debate at all but a kind of joint, fractious press conference), the focus on the candidates themselves can be lost, or at least compromised.

There is a whole science, art and rulebook of debate. Just ask any high school debating coach. Why not make a presidential debate a real debate instead of the high-stakes quiz show it's become? The rules were good enough for Messrs. Lincoln and Douglas, so why not for our time? Cutting out the media would by no means assure that we'd get debaters on the level of Mr. Lincoln and Judge Douglas, but at least we might be spared the Jim Lehrers.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.