Inside the Presidential Debates

September 26, 2008
By

jacket imageThe latest word is that tonight’s presidential debate in Oxford, MS, between John McCain and Barack Obama will indeed go on. This is a relief to millions of politically-obsessed Americans who otherwise would have to make other plans.
Newton Minow, who more than anyone else is responsible for televised debates, and his co-author Craig L. LaMay, have an op-ed piece in this morning’s Chicago Tribune in which they give a bit of the history of the presidential debates. (For the full story consult their book Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future.)
Minow and LaMay advise: “After you watch tonight’s debate, turn off your television and avoid the spin that follows.” Good advice, even though in Chicago we like to think we are as immune to political spin as we are to cold, wind, and snow.
Minow and LaMay also recently participated in a panel discussion about the debates with former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, and Ellen Hume the research director of MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media, at the Harvard School of Law. The HLS has a posted a nice summary of the discussion as well as an archived video of the panel on their website.
On our own website you can relive some of memorable moments from presidential debates—today is the anniversary of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate—and you can read an excerpt from the book.
2008 is also, by the way, the 150th anniversary of the granddaddy of them all, the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. We have an edition of the transcripts in The Complete Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. We’ll see this evening whether Obama and McCain can live up to the high standards set by their esteemed predecessors.

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