Roger Simon: By A Show Of Hands ...

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Let’s just admit that the presidential debates are not about the candidates any more. They are about the format and the sets and the backdrops and the lecterns and the chairs and who gets to ask the questions.

And each debate must be different than the previous debate.

In the previous debates this year, the candidates had to stand for the entire show.

But in Sunday’s Democratic debate from Manchester, N.H., the candidates got to sit for half of it.

The importance of this should not be minimized: Our next president should be able to both stand and sit. The American people deserve no less.

(At the next debate, they might recline on chaise longues. You read it here first. Somebody call Drudge.)

But the most important thing about debates is for the candidates to clash. We must have clash.

Because when the candidates agree, that is so…nothing.

When they clash, that is exciting. And what is exciting is, by definition, important.

True, the nation may be sick of clashing and how it poisons the political process and degrades democracy.

But, hey, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

No need to speak

The most important thing about debates used to be the answers given by the candidates.

This is no longer true. And that is because answers slow things down. Answers are just words. And words are dull. Words are just so blah, blah, blah.

But this year’s debates have broken new ground: The candidates are more and more frequently being asked for no words at all! They are just being asked to raise their hands!

True, the raising (or not raising) of hands is sometimes accompanied by a few words of explanation. But that is now.

In the future, there will be no words at all. The candidates will just raise or not raise their hands for the entire debate.

The blah, blah, blah will be gone! (Added benefit: Each candidate gets exactly the same amount of time.)

As we all know, debates are the best way to pick a president because the presidency is exactly like a debate: Presidents make decisions instantly, without thought or consultation. (You think they don’t? Hey,what country are you living in?)

Debates of the future

And the best way to cover a debate is to write about who won or who lost.

But this can take reporters several minutes as they make up their minds.

In the future, however, reporters will be given electronic devices that will allow them to pick the winners and losers instantly in each of four categories: Substance. Grasp of the Issues. Ability to Raise Hand Quickly. General Cleanliness.

Ties will be decided by the Electoral College.

There were no commercials interruptions in the debate Sunday night, but at the beginning of the show, we were told that the sponsors were the AARP and Fidelity Investments. This suggests that the audience demographic for debates is old and rich.

This will not do. TV needs young and rich.

So in the next debate, why not concentrate on things like attire? Attire appeals to a huge and young demographic. Attire is about show business. The Oscars, the Emmy’s, the People’s Choice awards are all about what the stars are wearing.

And, as has been said, politics is just show business for ugly people.

So my question Sunday night would have been: “Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, you are all wearing blue ties. John Edwards and Mike Gravel, you are wearing red ties. Dennis Kucinich, you have a tan tie. Hillary Clinton, you are wearing a yellow blouse. Explain and discuss.”

While either sitting or standing. By a show of hands.
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