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With its keen observations, diligent research, and insider revelations, Alan Schroeder’s popular, big-picture history explores the phenomenon of American presidential debates like no other volume. From pundits to political operatives, debate moderators to the viewing public, Schroeder examines how the various stakeholders make and experience this powerful event. For this third edition, Schroeder analyzes the 2008 and 2012 presidential debates and the role of social media and contemporary news outlets in shaping their design and reception. He also expands his coverage of previous campaigns, including the landmark 1960 meeting between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Second only to the Super Bowl in viewers, presidential debates are must-see TV, yet their conception and execution largely remain a mystery to the public—even to journalists. Schroeder details the key phases of the debate: anticipation, in which campaigns negotiate rules, formulate strategy, prepare answers, and steer press coverage; execution, in which the candidates, moderators, panelists, and television professionals create and project the event; and reaction, in which commentators, spin doctors, and the public evaluate the performance and move storylines in new directions. New chapters focus on real-time debate responses and the extent to which post-debate news coverage influences voter decision making and candidate behavior.
Presidential debates have had mixed reviews. Advocates praise debates as a way of making issues more central to the campaign. Others criticize them as little more than joint press conferences. How important are these debates? Do they really test knowledge and vision? Do they sort good ideas from bad, or reveal important character traits and habits of mind? In short, do they provide voters with what they need to know to choose a president? To address these questions, the authors place contemporary debates in their cultural and historical context, tracing their origins and development in the American political tradition, from the eighteenth century to the present. Although the Kennedy-Nixon TV confrontations were an historical first, debate was an element of American electoral politics by 1788 and a staple of policy deliberation throughout the colonial period. Indeed, much of the confusion over the value of debates stems in part from the long tradition of political debating in America. Thus, to make the most productive use of debate in modern presidential politics, the authors argue, we must respond to the history of this tradition. The book concludes with recommendations to preserve the best elements of traditional debate while adapting to the requirements of the broadcast age. The reforms they advocate include: substantive debates between major party representatives between elections; alternative formats; use of visual aids in debates; follow-up press conferences; a focus on fewer issues and increased experimentation in the primaries. Presidential debates provide voters with a rare opportunity to evaluate political reasoning on complex issues. In suggesting ways to make presidential debates even more effective, this thought-provoking volume makes an important contribution to America's political future.
Newton Minow’s long engagement with the world of television began nearly fifty years ago when President Kennedy appointed him chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. As its head, Minow would famously dub TV a “vast wasteland,” thus inaugurating a career dedicated to reforming television to better serve the public interest. Since then, he has been chairman of PBS and on the board of CBS and elsewhere, but his most lasting contribution remains his leadership on televised presidential debates. He was assistant counsel to Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson when Stevenson first proposed the idea of the debates in 1960; he served as cochair of the presidential debates in 1976 and 1980; and he helped create and is currently vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized the debates for the last two decades. Written with longtime collaborator Craig LaMay, this fascinating history offers readers for the first time a genuinely inside look into the origins of the presidential debates and the many battles—both legal and personal—that have determined who has been allowed to debate and under what circumstances. The authors do not dismiss the criticism of the presidential debates in recent years but do come down solidly in favor of them, arguing that they are one of the great accomplishments of modern American electoral politics. As they remind us, the debates were once unique in the democratic world, are now emulated across the globe, and they offer the public the only real chance to see the candidates speak in direct response to one another in a discussion of major social, economic, and foreign policy issues. Looking to the challenges posed by third-party candidates and the emergence of new media such as YouTube, Minow and LaMay ultimately make recommendations for the future, calling for the debates to become less formal, with candidates allowed to question each other and citizens allowed to question candidates directly. They also explore the many ways in which the Internet might serve to broaden the debates’ appeal and informative power. Whether it’s Clinton or Obama vs. McCain, Inside the Presidential Debates will be welcomed in 2008 by anyone interested in where this crucial part of our democracy is headed—and how it got there.
Politeness in Presidential Debates analyzes politeness strategies in presidential and vice presidential debates from 1960 to 2004. After an introduction to politeness theory and how to apply it to debates, the authors summarize each candidate's politeness strategies, relate them to the historical context of the appropriate campaign, and consider them in relation to other studies conducted on the debates. This well-researched book ends with implications for debate planners, politicians, citizens, and scholars, including an insightful chapter on the electorate's ideal debate.
With an update by the author for the 2012 election. A veteran newsman who has presided over eleven presidential and vice-presidential debates, Jim Lehrer gives readers a ringside seat for some of the epic political battles of our time, shedding light on all of the critical turning points and rhetorical faux pas that helped determine the outcome of America’s presidential elections. Drawing on his own experiences as “the man in the middle seat,” in-depth interviews with the candidates and his fellow moderators, and transcripts of key exchanges, Lehrer illuminates what he calls the “Major Moments” and “killer questions” that defined the debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain. In this paperback edition, he also offers his expert analysis of the 2012 Republican primary debates. Asked to sum up his experience as a participant in high-level televised debates, President George H. W. Bush memorably likened them to an evening in “tension city.” In Jim Lehrer’s absorbing account, we find out that truer words were never spoken. “A brisk and engaging memoir.”—The Washington Post “Enthralling . . . remarkable . . . a wonderful political memoir.”—Bookreporter “A really good read . . . [There is] no debating quality of Jim Lehrer’s book.”—Associated Press “Jim Lehrer is a national monument, and this riveting book shows how he became America’s moderator.”—Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage “A political junkie’s backstage pass.”—The Capital Times
Televised debates between the nominees of the two major parties have become standard fare in contemporary presidential election campaigns. The authors of this important volume maintain that television has altered the very nature of presidential debates profoundly, that the demands of television have dictated the structure and formats of contemporary debates, and that the visual content of presidential debates plays an important role in the way that candidates exercise influence in televised debates. This important work employs a "television perspective" in examining the sponsorship, formats, nature, and impacts of presidential debates, stressing the 1960, 1976, 1980, 1984, and 1988 debates. The authors assert that in order to understand contemporary political debates, one must understand how television communicates and exercises influence in this context. Hellweg, Pfau, and Brydon integrate contemporary theory and research about the television medium and influence with extensive research on presidential debates. Specific topics include how presidential debates have evolved as a function of the participation of the broadcast industry, how debates are structured to fit the demands of the television medium, how candidates' verbal messages must be tailored to the medium, how candidates' visual messages are defined through the medium, and the persuasive effects of mediated debates. Televised Presidential Debates will be particularly useful to scholars and students of political communication, campaigns and elections, and mass media.
With this second edition, Kraus continues his examination of formal presidential debates, considering the experience of television in presidential elections, reviewing what has been learned about televised debates, and evaluating that knowledge in the context of the election process, specifically, and the political process, generally. He also examines the media and the role they occupy in presidential elections. Because critics often refer to the Lincoln-Douglas debates when reproaching presidential debates, comparisons of the two are discussed throughout the book. Much of the data and information for this accounting of televised presidential debates comes from the author's first-hand experience as one who was involved with these debates as a participant observer, on site at nearly all of the debates discussed. Throughout these discussions, emphasis is placed on the implications for public policy. To suggest policy that will be accepted and adopted by politicians and the public is, at best, difficult. Proposals for changes in public policy based on experience -- even when scientific data support those changes -- must be subjected to an assessment of the values and predispositions of the proponent. These values and predispositions, however, may not necessarily inhibit the proponent's objectivity. As such, this review of television use in the presidential election process provides the context for examining televised debates.

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