I agree that the presidential debates need to be totally revamped, but don’t agree with the suggested format, as I’m afraid that too much of the electorate would not have the attention span to watch how a candidate and his/her teams of advisers would respond to a hypothetical emergency. Instead, I would like to see a Lincoln-Douglas style format, with certain amendments. Each candidate would be required to speak for a half hour straight about what she or he thinks are the major issues facing the nation and how she or he would address them, without commercial breaks. (After all professional soccer matches can run for 45 minutes without ads, why can't presidential debates?) After each has presented, the first speaker would be given 20 minutes without interruption to distinguish her or his candidacy from the other, following which the second speaker would be given 20 minutes of uninterrupted rebuttal to distinguish her or his candidacy. Then each would be given five minutes for a closing argument.

During the debate the candidates would be separated by a soundproof wall, the sound would filter out all but the speaker’s voice, and the camera, except for the very beginning of the debate or at the very end, would focus only on the speaker and not the other candidate, so that no facial expressions, head shakings or other histrionics are recorded. The moderator’s role would be reduced to setting and enforcing the clock. This format would force the candidates to talk about substantive issues and concrete proposals only; there’d be no opportunities for slights, gestures, histrionics, stares, and other theatrics. Each candidate would be fairly judged on the basis of the depth and breadth of her or his vision and how she or she would implement it.

Michael Wiggins ’68
Cambridge, Mass.