Are these debates just made for TV?

Put aside, for the moment, the substance of the Democratic debates. CNN over-produced them, over-dressed them up and over-prettied up the Fox Theater.

From the veteran filled honor guard (with all due respect to their service) to the over-done stage makeover (of a really nice historic theater to begin with) — the production was, simply, over-done.

Understanding the challenges of developing a format that gives 10 candidates a fair shot at free air time to give the viewer an idea of what he or she stands for and the no-win situation of trying to stop them from going over those limits, it’s hard to figure out just who can beat Donald Trump from those debates. Which means, probably, Trump won the debates without even being there.

Dana Bash did the best job of trying to keep within the time limits by simply saying thank you while the very competent Jake Tapper failed at it, as did Don Lemon. I don’t know why that was. All three are very capable TV folks. But then again, maybe that shows the format doesn’t work.

The point of these debates, supposedly, is to give the voters a sense of who is their preferred candidate. Is it former Vice President Joe Biden, who looks tired on the stage and in his answers but still seems the best bet to beat President Trump, or Andrew Yang who chose not to wear a tie and noted that’s what we probably would remember about him. And he was correct about that.

On the substance, I’d have to say Sen. Elizabeth Warren (not my favorite candidate but you have to give that she clearly was the best prepared) “won.” But should these debates be about who “won” and who “lost.” Or should they be about determining who is the best candidate to run against Trump? They are not the same thing.

I must confess that I did not watch all of either debate. It almost hurt to watch as the candidates seemed to be playing verbal bumper cars rather than explaining why they are the best candidate.

I mean, how much can you stuff into a one-minute answer or a 15-second rebuttal? And why, anyway, does that qualify you to lead the free world?

Also, how much time did their staffs spend trying to come up with the words that would give their candidate “a moment?” We are to decide who will be President based on a “‘moment”?

I don’t know the answer other than to wait until the field is whittled down enough so we can get a good feel of each candidate. I read several of Marianne Williamson’s books years ago when I was trying to figure myself out. I found the books quite compelling. I do not see what makes her think she should be President of the United States. Or, for that matter, why ex-Cong. John Delaney thinks he should be commander-in-chief? Ego? An opportunity to build name ID so he can succeed again at something else? I don’t know…but he is not qualified to be the President, nor are many of the other 19 candidates.

If we believe the talking heads, and why not for sake of argument, Biden didn’t lose the debate, Sen. Kamala Harris held her own, etc. etc.

Personally, I want to learn who can best beat Donald Trump. The demographics are there for a Democrat victory, the public opinion polls indicate Trump will lose has been deemed “unpopular” since the day he was elected, and those of us who want a President we can look up to are motivated to vote against him.

All we need is the candidate.

Written by

Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: bjaycooper.com.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store