The Past and Future of Presidential Debates

By Austin Ranney | Go to book overview

Discussion

AUSTIN RANNEY, American Enterprise Institute: You have said public pressure is the way to make incumbent presidents engage in debates. I don't quite see how this public pressure would make them debate if they really don't want to. Can you speak to that?

KARAYN: I believe that the only thing we had going for us in 1976 was public pressure, and we found an incumbent who wanted to debate as well as a challenger who knew he was going to have to debate. But public pressure is the only tool we have. We cannot leave it to the prospective nominees; we need a commitment from the Democratic national chairman and the Republican national chairman that whoever their parties nominate has to debate.

RANNEY: You might get such commitments out of the two national chairmen, but how are they going to make their candidates live up to those commitments once they are nominated? Surely there is no way the national chairmen can make the nomination conditional on accepting the obligation to debate.

RICHARD CHENEY, former Ford chief of staff: Especially in light of the fact that the first order of business for the nominee is to decide whether or not to keep the incumbent chairman or replace him. As I said earlier, I am still reluctant to let anything other than the candidates' own judgment govern whether or not there should be a debate. It seems to me that in general terms we should advocate the process. But binding commitments that take away the candidates' control over their own campaigns make me very uncomfortable.

KARAYN: Everybody worries about the rights of the candidates, but we impose certain conditions on being a candidate. By law we say that a

NOTE: James Karayn's case for permanent presidential debates was presented to the conference in a form somewhat different from that of the preceding chapter. The discussion is still relevant, however, since it concerned the substance of his position rather than the manner of presentation.

-169-

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The Past and Future of Presidential Debates
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • 1 - Presidential Candidate "Debates": What Can We Learn from 1960 1
  • Discussion 51
  • 2 - Historical Evolution of Section 315 56
  • Discussion 70
  • 3 - Presidential Debates: an Empirical Assessment 75
  • Discussion 102
  • 4 - The 1976 Presidential Debates: a Republican Perspective 107
  • Discussion 131
  • 5 - Did the Debates Help Jimmy Carter? 137
  • Discussion 147
  • 6 - The Case for Permanent Presidential Debates 155
  • Discussion 169
  • 7 - Debatable Thoughts on Presidential Debates 175
  • Discussion 187
  • 8 - Presidential Debates: an Overview 191
  • Discussion 206
  • Bibliography 215
  • Contributors 225
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