Category Archives: elections

New debate format

The Commission on Presidential Debates, about as arcane a group as one might imagine, is going back to the drawing board to add “additional structure” to the debate format “to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.” Yeah, sure. As if lack of “structure” was the problem.

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was a painful, disgusting, cringe-worthy debacle which made me embarrassed to be an American.

There was structure, a set of rules agreed upon by the two candidates. Basically, there were to be alternating two minute responses to questions from the moderator. During each candidate’s two minutes, the other would remain silent. But right from the beginning it was clear that Trump had no intention of abiding by those rules. Trump spent the full 90 minutes aggressively interrupting Biden, making mean-spirited personal attacks, taunting the former Vice President, trying to provoke. From my standpoint, it was a transparent and cruel attempt to cause Biden, who has struggled his whole life to overcome a stutter, to break by interrupting his speech.

Yes, Biden occasionally responded in kind. But for most of the 90 minutes Biden exhibited the Patience of Job. And a few of Biden’s retorts were memorable. “Shut up man” was my favorite. At one point Biden simply asked the audience, “Do you have any idea what this clown is doing?”

CNN’s Jake Tapper called it “A hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” Tapper does have a way with words.

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The moderator, Fox’s Chris Wallace, asked afterwards if Trump had derailed the debate replied, “Well, he certainly didn’t help.”

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Which brings us back to the question of the hour. What can the Commission do to restore order? About the only structural change I can see them making is to give the moderator control of each candidate’s microphone. When your two minutes is up, your microphone is turned off. And while one candidate is talking, the other’s microphone is silent. While Biden is naturally soft-spoken, Trump has a big mouth and is known to shout and scream in rage. I think the microphone trick will be of marginal value at best.

Other Ideas – The Hook

I have some other ideas. On some of the amateur hour programs, which originated in the days of vaudeville, and more famously in the cartoons, there was the hook. You bring out the hook, and yank the offending performer right off the stage.

Other Ideas – The Gong

On a more modern incarnation of the amateur hour, television’s, “The Gong Show,” the judges had a large gong they could ring when they had enough of a performer. One solid and loud ring and you were done for the night.

Other Ideas – The Cone of Silence

And then there is my personal favorite. If the debaters get too loud, just drop the Cone of Silence on them. This little gadget from the TV show “Get Smart” was supposed to allow Agent Maxwell Smart and The Chief to talk confidentially without anyone overhearing them. The conceit was that once the device was lowered from the ceiling, they couldn’t hear each other!

Or….

We could just give up on the debates.

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Updates and tidbits

Back from Space

SpaceX’s Dragon Demo-2 flight has ended with the successful return to earth of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley after spending more than two months on the International Space Station. As I wrote at the time of their launch, this flight marks the return to America of the ability to send humans into space.

After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2000, Americans who wanted to go the the ISS had to buy a seat on a Russian rocket. NASA began, during the Obama-Biden administration, what is called the “Commercial Crew” program effectively outsourcing this task to private industry. SpaceX is the first to successfully demonstrate this capability. This flight was named “Demo-2.” The first regularly contracted flight of the Crew Dragon is set to take four astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, to the space station later this year.

As they left the capsule Behnken and Hurley thanks the SpaceX team. The SpaceX communicator said, “Thanks for riding SpaceX.” For America’s space program, a new day has begun.

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Trump’s gestapo comes to portland

Hard to believe but the fears I raised in my last column have now been realized and the situation is far worse.

The headlines exploded around the world on the morning of July 15th, summed up best by this Oregon PBS report, “Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles to Grab Protestors Off Portland Streets.”

It is positively frightening. And it can happen to you. It can happen to me. It can happen to any one of us.

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A Clear and Present Danger

I’ve been avoiding this issue for months. I just got tired about writing about Donald J. Trump. Somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought that he simply could not keep up the pace. He could not commit, every single day of his administration, a bigger travesty than the one he had committed the day before.

I was wrong.

So here is the first of what will be a long stretch of blogs on Trump and the nation. The Trump reaction to a week of protests is just the latest manifestation. The groundwork had already been laid and was in the open for everyone to see. Take a look at April 17, 2020, the day a sitting President of these United States incited violent revolution. Here were Trump’s tweets:

Three calls to arms, to “LIBERATE,” one invoking the 2nd Amendment on gun ownership, all directed at states with popularly elected Democratic governors, who just happened to offend Trump in one way or another.

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And So It Goes….

US Senate

It is over now. In the 241 year history of the United States there have only been three impeachment trials of a president. The impeachment of Donald J. Trump ended just as expected, with his acquittal by the United States Senate. The Senators sat as jurors but heard no live witnesses and read no documentary evidence other than that gathered by the House of Representatives. That was a marked departure from all other impeachment trials in the Senate.

What have we learned? We have learned that our government process has devolved into one where only party loyalty and raw political power counts. The House, with the Democrats in the majority, did not allow Republicans to call witnesses. The Senate, with the Republicans in the majority, blocked witnesses and documents and considered voting to “dismiss” the charges without even allowing the House managers to present their case.

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National Archive Gets Trumped

As you know I don’t usually report on other reporters. Nor do I link to material behind paywalls, although I support the use of paywalls to enable reporters to make a living. But there is a story justifiably blazing through the cloud that touches on many of the topics I hold dear and deserves a shout-out.

My tip of the hat goes to Joe Heim of the Washington Post and his story, “National Archives exhibit blurs images critical of President Trump.” Tweet National Archives TrumpedHeim, in a Twitter post after the story went viral, said his story was in part due to “chance.” I’ll respectfully disagree. Heim was visiting the National Archive when he noticed something that had nothing to do with his reporting assignment. That’s not chance. That’s good reporting. I’ve often told journalism students the best story ideas come from their own observations. A good reporter always keeps eyes open.

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The Whistle Blows for Trump

I won’t even try to fight it, as I did in my last blog. Now the whistleblower’s complaint has been released and so was a summary memo describing the telephone conversation Donald Trump had with the President of Ukraine.

Please, I beg you. READ the complaint and the telephone call memo. Make up your own mind. Beware the pundits and the spinners. Even me. It remains both inexplicable and frustrating to me that two people can look at the same material and come to different conclusions. But that’s life. What I can’t abide is people voicing an opinion without having read the material. Each document is only a handful of pages long. Make the effort.

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