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Schroeder investigates the nuts and bolts of presidential debates as they play out on live television, shedding light on the dramatic aspects that make these political contests "must-see TV."
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 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.
This vital study employs a "television perspective" in examining the sponsorship, formats, nature, and impacts of presidential debates, stressing the 1960, 1976, 1980, 1984, and 1988 debates.
Broadcast to tens of millions of Americans, the presidential debates are the Super Bowl of politics. A good performance before the cameras can vault a contender to the front of the pack, while a gaffe spells national embarrassment and can savage a candidacy. The slim margin for error has led the two major parties to seek—and achieve, under the aegis of the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates—tight control through scripting, severe time limits, and the exclusion of third-party candidates. In No Debate, author and lobbyist George Farah argues that these staged recitations make a mockery of free and fair presidential elections. With urgency and clarity, this book reviews the history of presidential debates, the impact of the debates since the advent of television, the role of the League of Women Voters, the antidemocratic activity of the CPD, and the specific ways that the Republicans and Democrats collude to remove all spontaneity from the debates themselves. The author presents the complete text of a previously unreleased secret document between the Republicans and Democrats that reveals the degree to which the two parties—not the CPD—dictate the terms of the debates. In the final chapter, Farah lays out a compelling strategy for restoring the presidential debates as a nonpartisan, unscripted, public events that help citizens—not corporations or campaign managers—decide who is going to run the White House. From the Trade Paperback edition.

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