Republican Presidential Primary Debate: How Did the Moderators Do?
August 9, 2015
Add a Little Pizzazz To Your Next Panel Program
August 19, 2015

It rankles me when something is advertised as one thing, and then it turns out to be something else. When a bank says, “free checking” only to find out it isn’t really “free.”  Or when a product is touted as “new and improved” and it’s really the same formula in a new and improved package.  Or when the Republican Presidential Primary Debate turns out to be a Q&A session with the candidates.  Why not just call it a Q&A session rather than a debate?

A “debate” is, by definition, “a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints.”  It can also mean “a formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of proposition are advocated by opposing speakers.”

The process Moderator Baier stated at the beginning might have given us opposing viewpoints:

“The rules for tonight are simple. One minute for answers, 30 seconds for follow­-ups. And if a candidate runs over, you’ll hear this <<buzzer from the arena shot clock>>.”

That is, if we had some rebuttals.  Out of a total of 31 questions directed at a unique candidate, only seven had rebuttals.  That seems more like a Question & Answer (Q&A) session to me!

Furthermore, it’s fairly difficult to get “affirmative and negative sides of a proposition” with ten candidates.  It could have been possible, but would have taken a bit more structure to accomplish.  We saw a glimmer of this in the Huckabee/Christie exchange over entitlement reform:

Moderator Wallace asked, “Governor Christie, I want to engage you and Governor Huckabee in a subject that is a big issue in both of your campaigns, and that is entitlement reform.  You say that you — to save the system that you want to raise the retirement age — have to raise the retirement age, and to cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare, and you say that some of the candidates here on the stage are lying.

Governor Huckabee says he can save Social Security and Medicare without doing any of that. Is he lying?”

Christie responded, Wallace asked Huckabee how it could work.  Huckabee responded.  Christie rebutted and Huckabee rebutted.  Now that’s a debate of sorts!  Sadly, it only happened once.

The Republican Presidential Primary wasn’t a debate.  It was an effort to introduce a whopping number of candidates to the American public.  So Q&A was probably the better way to go.  But don’t call it a debate.  It was a Q&A session with a little spark here and there.

I’m looking forward to a smaller field where there can actually be a conversation of opposing viewpoints.

(See my full critique of the debate here)


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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.

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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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