I watched last nights debate between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Both were lively and anxious to get their points out. But Gingrich showed why he's the class of the field; he truly displayed a mastery of the issues and was ready with conservative solutions. Getting rid of the CBO? Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Granted, I'm not sure how an idea like that would even be considered by Congress (after all, the CBO is the Congressional Budget Office); but that doesn't mean Gingrich's idea isn't a place to start debate on reforming how the CBO does things.
The debate wasn't even close. I've never doubted Cain's conservative cred. And, there are times when I've questioned Gingrich's motives (the video with Pelosi comes to mind). My brother has often mentioned to me what he sees Gingrich bringing to the table. In every one of the debates I've watched, Gingrich is the smartest at every turn. Plus, he has a proven track record. As far as I'm concerned, and as long as he's on the ballot, Gingrich is who I want to see as President, warts and all. I like Cain, and have found his 9-9-9 plan intriguing. I've liked many of the other candidates as well. But to me, Gingrich is the total package.
Having said all that, what about the debate format?
Conservatives have rightly complained about all the other debates that have taken place. In fact, I would say the following video was quite prescient:
The cheap and tawdry nature of those other debates has shown us more about the agenda of the media than anything else. I don't mean just the political interests and agenda of the mediators, but that today's media lives for quick sound bites as opposed to actual debate. I think one can discern important points and differences in those debates, but it's like pulling teeth, especially when a point is made out of context and there isn't a reasonable way for rebuttal. It doesn't help when a "moderator" injects their own hostile political agenda into the questions. Unfortunately, the number of candidates right now doesn't allow for the kind of debate that took place last night. If there was one thing I would change it's to allow a debate on a couple of items (much like it has been) but have the candidates question each other, after all, finding out what questions a candidate asks can be important in figuring out their stance on an item; the media moderator would be there simply to enforce an obvious need for a time limit and to make sure candidates don't degenerate into something like the Romney-Perry fiasco.
Once some of the candidates get winnowed out, the kind of debate that occurred between Gingrich and Cain would be far more beneficial than what we've been seeing. But would the media touch it? After all, last night's debate was on C-SPAN, not any network or cable news outlet. The two men were able to give many speeches explaining their positions and outlining how they want to get things done (Gingrich was definitely better on this). But it wasn't the quick-and-dirty approach favored by the media, which is why the media mavens might not think it plays well, especially during the primary season.
Of course, once the Republican nominee is pretty well selected, debates of the kind Gingrich wants would be extremely beneficial. They would almost certainly have to be televised or the charge that the media is only interested in its own agenda would further stick out.
And I'm not sure Obama would agree to these kinds of debates, although he really wouldn't have a choice if he has any chance of being re-elected. These kinds of debates would play into one of his strengths, giving long speeches to direct questions, something he is nauseatingly good at during press conferences. But of course, he is good when given leading questions as opposed to questions that he wouldn't expect, something a good opponent could easily do. Without his teleprompter, Obama is a fumbler, whereas Gingrich is clear and knows how to make a point even with a long answer. Gingrich would clean Obama's clock in such a setting, as he would most debate opponents. I would venture to guess others would as well. Which is why I don't believe Obama would accept such a challenge. But then again, he might surprise me.
Cross-posted at Scipio the Metalcon.