Special Bulletin. Can a Future GOP Debate Be More Informative and Entertaining? A Modest Proposal.

In our last blog, we were critical of the format and the performance of the moderators at the debate conducted by CNBC. Since that time there has been extensive discussion and “debate about the debate.”  While numerous suggestions have been made by the candidates and various observers, most of them have been little more than tweaking. We have something a bit more radical (or “modest” in the Swiftian sense).

The biggest failing of not only the CNBC debate but other past debates is that they have allowed only snippets of the candidates’ views with no subject explored in any depth. In order to remedy that, we would propose the following format:

  1. Assume twelve candidates (the top twelve from the ten in the last main debate and the four from the undercard debate).
  2. Divide the session into six one-on-one debates, each covering a different topic. The two person pairing for each debate, and the subject to be debated in each, would be determined by lot a short time, say two days, before the debate.
  3. Each candidate would have a total of ten minutes divided between an opening statement and rebuttal.
  4. It is not clear that the debate need be moderated by a media personality. It would add interest to have it moderated by one or more of Mitt Romney, John McCain or Newt Gingrich.

Some possible examples of issues of domestic policy to be debated are listed below. (An equally challenging list could be prepared for issues of national security and foreign policy). While viewers would be deprived of hearing candidates’ views on a smorgasbord of issues, there are many other opportunities for that, and this would provide an opportunity to see how each could handle an important issue in at least some depth.

Tax Reform.

  • Do you plan to reduce rates? If so, by how much? Do you plan to offset the loss of revenue from rate reduction by eliminating deductions and “loopholes”? If so, which ones?
  • Do you advocate a flat tax? Why is that fairer than the progressive rates which have always applied in this country?
  • Is your tax plan revenue neutral or will it add to the deficit? If the latter, by how much? If you are assuming that revenue loss from rate reduction will be offset by growth, will you release the economic model on which you are relying?

Entitlement Reform.

  • Do you agree that entitlement reform is essential? What specific reforms would you propose for Social Security and Medicare?


  • What role to you see for the Federal government in K-12 education? In Pre-K education? Would you abolish Head Start or seek to improve it?
  • Do you oppose Common Core standards? If so, why?
  • What would you advocate to make college more accessible financially?
  • Would you reform the student loan program? If so, how?


  • Would you replace Obamacare? With what? Would you preserve the right to buy insurance covering a pre-existing condition? The right of parents to insure their children up to age 26? What provision would you make for those who are presently insured under Obamacare and receive a premium subsidy?
  • What would you do to reduce the overall cost of healthcare?


  • What specifically would you do to seal the border with Mexico?  Does a wall for the entire border make sense? What would it cost? [For Donald Trump: If you plan to make Mexico pay for the wall, explain exactly how.]
  • Do you plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants?  Do you know of any law enforcement expert who thinks that would be practical? At what cost?

Climate Change.

  • Do you accept that the climate is changing and that human activity is a major factor in the change? And that the consequences may be quite serious for the United States and the rest of the world?  If not, on what specific scientists or scientific studies are you relying? Do you have a science advisor?
  • If you answered yes to the above, do you think the government has a responsibility to take any precautionary actions? If so, what? Regulation of carbon? Funding research and development?

We don’t suppose that our proposal will capture the imagination of any of the candidates, but if it came to their attention, it might help to underscore the need to find some way of giving serious responses to serious issues.

5 thoughts on “Special Bulletin. Can a Future GOP Debate Be More Informative and Entertaining? A Modest Proposal.

  • I think the “debates” rival “show and tell” one would find in kindergarten through third grade. In fact I believe the kids would be much more entertaining. Nice ideas for improvement Doug, however sound bites and memorized lines is kind of corny and would improve what? Now I do have some ideas for improvement of the staged events but I’m saving my stuff for the democrats. Larry

  • Doug Parker Should be the one who asks each candidate the relevant questions(see above)….that action would separate ” the men from the boys “….

    • Right on BB. Along with the Gun issue. Just recently, a lady visiting from London, became outspoken about Americans and their obsession with guns and gun rights. She claimed all of Europe thinks we’re absolutely looney with not one taking the lead for a rational controlled platform. Her husband said; “My wife likes to lead”. In turn she said; “My husband likes to lead, so I’ve learned to lead more quietly.”
      Who will take the lead?

  • How about announcing the topics in advance to the candidates and have them “petition” to answer the one or ones they would prefer. Those in charge could then select the candidates they would like to hear on the topic which may or may not be the topic which the candidate selected.

  • Great idea but the odds on anyone of them agreeing cannot be calculated. No one wants to discuss the issues they only want as much face time as they can get. It is sad that our democracy has devolved to this.

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