A collective of Republican presidential campaigns have composed an extensive questionnaire to all news networks who will be holding debates for the upcoming elections, which was released to the public in a late draft stage by Robert Costa. The list of question wavers amorphously between requesting extensive accounting of information related to the debate to outright demands that certain criteria be met.
The implication is that if the campaigns are not satisfied with the results the networks turn in, the Republican candidates will boycott those debates. The receiving networks, of course, exclude Faux News. They don’t want to upset Fox network head Roger Ailes, according to several of the campaigns. The questions making up the list range from reasonable (“What is the proposed length of the debate?” “Who is the moderator?”) to weirdly specific (“Are [the questioners] seated?” How many questions will there be from social media, and how will they be presented?)
The entire list ends with the rather astonishing “Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?” The letter itself is a peculiarly constructed thing, that really does seem like a list people brainstormed and didn’t edit or review to exclude stranger items from. The oddest part by far is a question beginning “Will you commit that you will not:”
- ask candidates to raise their hands
- ask yes or no questions
- let the audience wear political clothing – with “Who enforces?” tacked onto the end like this is a casual list for someone’s reference and not a formatted letter
- Have “candidate-to-candidate” questioning. Which is to say, a debate.
- allow props
- show reaction shots of the audience
- “Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)”. This one is truly baffling.
- Show the candidates from behind so you can see their notes – this is likely specifically inspired by shots taken at Sarah Palin’s notes in the 2012 elections.
- “Leave microphones on during breaks”
- or “Have a ‘lightening round'”. Yes, “lightning” is misspelled.
The list is part of an attempt by the GOP to gain more control over primary debates, likely discontented with the showings of their candidates so far and evidently not assured of their upcoming performances in more rigorous fields. Or possibly because the group collectively sees it as an unfair attack or part of a diabolical plot whenever one of their candidates is asked to answer a hard question or defend an opinion.
Instead, the missive reads like a list of allusions to past fumbles by GOP candidates as the campaigns try to learn from the past to avoid the same mistakes in the future, just, you know, in completely the wrong way. The full text of the draft is not any less stunning entirely in context in how poorly considered the entire idea is. The idea of a political debate is to put the contenders for a position in a situation where they’re forced to think on their feet and defend the positions they hold, so that voters can see their mettle, better understand the meat of their stances on issues, and generally form a more informed opinion of them.
The GOP’s demands seem like an attempt to directly subvert all of this. Their debates so far have been a chaotic cluster-fumble where the loudest, most controversial voice is the one that gets heard. This list was created with the hopes that GOP debates could be more civil in the future and candidates better prepared – but lets be real, with a group of contenders as sad as the GOP’s candidates civility is off the table.