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Next battleground: the presidential debates

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump listens squared off in a town hall debate at Washington University on Oct. 9, 2016, in St Louis.Pool

Trump’s challenges are not only issue dogging debate system

Re “A Trump scheme to debunk the debates” (Opinion, July 24): Chris Matthews is right to slam President Trump’s wish to enjoy veto power over any debate moderator, but he ignores fundamental flaws with the Commission on Presidential Debates. The commission claims to be nonpartisan, but it serves the interests of the Democratic and Republican parties, not those of the public. Excluding competition from candidates outside their duopoly generates ripples of criticism each election cycle, but the greater concern this year is the inadequacy of the debate structure and moderation.

Predetermined topic areas allow the candidates to memorize and recite sound bites, diminishing substantive discussion. The commission’s restrictive formats and the dearth of follow-up questions have never served us well, but when one candidate is perfectly willing to lie repeatedly, debates without real-time fact-checking and correction actually may give voters disinformation.


Finally, the commission invariably ignores crucial topics that may displease big funders of the dominant parties. Questions about breaking up monopolies, revoking corporate electioneering power, or even poverty go unasked.

Don’t be tricked into thinking an entity is worth supporting just because Trump attacks it. The Commission on Presidential Debates should be replaced with a Citizens’ Debate Commission that serves the public, not the corporate-friendly duopoly.

Jeff Milchen

Bozeman, Mont.

The writer founded Reclaim Democracy!, which has long promoted replacing the Commission on Presidential Debates.

President is right to question debates’ fairness

I don’t think that Chris Matthews is saying that President Trump is trying debunk the debates, as the headline of his op-ed maintains, since Trump is not trying to expose the falseness or hollowness of them so much as he is indicating the extent to which he might go to undermine and disrupt them.

However, I do think the Commission on Presidential Debates has an increasingly difficult time choosing moderators. As Matthews points out, the commission was started more than 30 years ago, before the media had grown in so many dimensions, and before its liberal bias became blatant. Professionals such as Jim Lehrer, Barbara Walters, Edwin Newman, BIll Moyers, and Bernard Shaw were obvious choices and tended to be less political in their role as moderator, working to give the electorate a fair view of the candidates. Today the media is predominantly liberal, and the moderate to conservative candidates for the moderator role are few in number and mostly from one network.


So, Matthews has nothing to worry about, but Trump does. He can challenge moderator candidates all he wants, but those who might be favorable or fair to him are so few in number that the commission will have little choice but to pick from the list of those who probably favor Biden.

The idea that the process is fair is what needs to be debunked.

David Mahoney