The New Presidential Debates
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by Ron Cruger
        The chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates rapped his solid oak gavel on his desk and said, “Thank you ladies and gentlemen, for your cooperation in revising the rules of the Presidential Debates, we are adjourned.”
        And so, the first Presidential Debate of the 2016 election season had new rules in which to operate.
        The initial debate under the new regulations would appropriately be held in Madison Square Garden, New York City in October, 2016.
        The new physical set up was startling to the twelve thousand who were streaming into the modern arena. The floor area of the Garden was covered with red carpeting. An area thirty feet by thirty feet was contained by three strands of red velvet ropes similar to those in a boxing match. Towards the center of the roped in area were two chairs set twelve feet apart.
        The hour of the debate approached. Madison Square Garden was pulsating with excitement.
        The moderator, a former ESPN commentator entered to mild applause and sat down just outside the ring area. He sat in a chair normally occupied by a judge in a boxing match. He wore a black and white striped shirt, black slacks, black soft soled shoes and referee’s whistle on a lanyard around his neck.
        Each candidate entered the arena to deafening applause. An assistant parted the ropes and the two candidates bent down and entered the ring. Each warmly shook hands with the other and walked to their appropriate chair.
        The moderator, now called “The Referee,” got up from his chair, entered the ring and motioned for the two presidential candidates to come to the center of the ring where they shook hands with each other and “The Referee.”
        The Republican and Democratic candidates stared at each other, unblinking, unmoving. “The Referee” began: “Gentlemen, this debate will last for ninety minutes. I will present to you six questions, which you will have five minutes to respond. At the end of the question and answer period you will each have ten minutes to speak on any subject you choose.
        Also, seated in the front row on your left is a team of non-partisan fact-checkers. They will be listening to everything each of you say and they will verify all of your statements for accuracy. If any of the fact-checkers finds an exaggeration or an un-truth in your statement they will activate a bull horn sound that will interrupt you. You will then lose one minute of your re-cap time.
        I will be listening to your presentations and if I find that you are not directly and succinctly answering the question I will use this whistle which will indicate that you are avoiding a proper answer and I will ask you to revert to the question and answer it properly.
If either of you interrupt the other during their presentation I will blow the whistle and you will lose another minute off of your personal presentation.
        The fact-checkers will be alert to any use of incorrect or misleading facts or figures and will blow the bull horn and you will lose another minute off of your re-cap time.
        The rolling of eyes, shaking of heads and other obvious physical distractions will cause me to blow the whistle and penalize you.
        “The Referee” looked at each candidate and said, “And now gentlemen, do you have any questions?”
        Each candidate stared at the other and nodded.
        “Now go to your chairs and wait for the opening bell.”
        Both candidates were sweating and fidgeting. A hush filled Madison Square Garden. “The Referee” hit the opening bell. The Republican candidate had won the coin toss and chose to open the debate.
        The Democrat stared ahead and slowly pounded his right fist into his open left hand.