The first presidential debate was staged in a traditional, podium-style set-up. The first and only vice presidential debate placed the two candidates sitting at a table, in the manner of Sunday television news shows. Then, the second presidential debate posited Sen. Kerry and President Bush in a town hall meeting environment, where both men walked freely upon the stage, interacting with the mostly frightened-looking audience members. Critics charge that all three formats lack the formal parameters of a debate. They point to no less a resource than the venerable Weblogster’s Dictionary for a true definition: “Debate: Context for dispute wherein two or more entities battle for hegemony, sometimes but not always, involving the use of fisticuffs or weaponry.”
For a populace accustomed to sporting events, violent TV and movies and various other culturally-sanctioned bloodlettings (including the conflict in Iraq), impatience is growing.
One St. Louis gentleman interviewed last week said the debate was “overly civil” and “downright boring.”
Both campaigns, concerned about diminished interest in the presidential race, have decided to stage tonight’s debate in a medieval milieu with the candidates both poised on horses in a jousting match. Bush and Kerry will be fully armored, though images of their faces will be projected upon giant screens in the stadium so the audience can see the smirks, snarls, smiles and expressions of agony from the competitors.
Pundits say that Bush will be more comfortable in this setting, given his Texas post-origins, while others point to Kerry’s prowess as a snowboarder and windsurfer.
Either way, we applaud this last minute shift in debate tactics. Short of anyone being actually injured, of course, the format is sure to please. At the same time, it eliminates the constant haggling about who lied or spoke half-truths. It’s good, old-fashioned, dukin’ it out.