Friday, October 5, 2012

Debate Reform: iPads

Cross posted at

[Update: Gawker has a story about debate conspiracy theories of covert communications, including one about Romney pulling out a cheat-sheet.  My only objection to this is that it should be specifically sanctioned and both candidates should be able to communicate with their staffs. Bring it out in the open and level the playing field.]

I didn't watch the Presidential Debate Wednesday night, but from the accounts I've read, Romney lied his ass off, and Obama sat there and took it, failing to challenge or counter Romney's claims.

We've kind of seen this disregard for facts in GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan's convention speech.  It was so blatantly false that former Bush political strategist, Michael Dowd, was compelled to comment that "At some point, the truth should matter".

Indeed it should.  And that is a bit of a problem with debates as they are currently conducted: you can lie your ass off making claims that are completely unsupported by facts.  And unless your opponent (if they are actually interested in the facts) happens to have sufficient facts memorized to counter your bullshit, they risk a) lying and, probably worse, b) get caught lying.

Which is a shame.  The debate is a rhetorical cage match.  Its not based on factually true substance, especially if one party is willing to 'stretch' the truth.

When I watch a debate I want to see one candidate call the other out when they start spouting bullshit.  I want a control mechanism, other than the candidates' memory, to keep the other honest. 

I'm probably not alone in this. After Obama's failure to challenge Romney, there are probably many liberals that are thinking the same thing. But if/when Obama starts making dubious claims I'm sure conservatives will feel that way.

My solution? iPads.

At first I was thinking of it as a way for the candidate to quickly look something up while their opponent was talking. But that would likely prove to cumbersome and inefficient to be workable. But what if the candidate could be connected to their team of advisors and fact checkers? Then they could just get an instant message with the relevant piece of data and smoke their opponent right then and there.

Now I'm sure some will say the debate should be the two candidates going tet-a-tet and let the best one win. I say F that. This shouldn't be a test of one person. Presidential Administrations are composed of many people working together to advance an agenda. Why shouldn't the debate reflect that reality? Especially if it results in the candidates not making patently bullshit claims that can't be instantaneously refuted?

And of course, as with any tool, just having access to it won't magically and instantaneously eliminate the bald-faced lies.  But I suspect that over time, and as candidates learn how to use the iPad to effectively receive information from their team and articulate it, the degree of bullshit will slowly subside.

Maybe there are other problems that I haven't considered (and I'd welcome any feedback on this idea), but let's transform debates from rhetorical fact-optional contests into a fact-based discussion of policy.

Bring in the iPads.

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