London Guardian 
Sunday, Sept 29, 2008
The idea that the presidential debates are “high-risk TV” in which the candidates can be questioned “on any subject matter” is laughable (90 minutes in TV spotlight that will make or break candidates, September 26). The debates are profoundly undemocratic. The “private” corporation that organises them, the Commission on Presidential Debates, was established by the Republican and Democratic national committees in 1986 and serves their interests. Before the debates take place, the two-party organisations jointly draft debate “contracts” which define exactly what will happen during the “debate”. This includes screening which topics will be discussed, who can attend the debates, who can ask questions, how long each candidate will have to answer and that there be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rubuttals and no follow-up questions.
Moreover, the CPD has set criteria that deliberately exclude third-party candidates from taking part. To join the debate, a third-party candidate must be able to demonstrate that they expect to receive 15% of the public vote. This is three times greater than the 5% political parties must achieve to receive major party status and receive public funds.
The polls used to determine expected support are not required to list candidates other than those from the two main parties. This stage management does not lead to a debate but a glorified press conference.
Dr. Maria Ryan
University of Nottingham
Financial crisis? Not to worry. President Bush says he’s on top of things. What could possibly go wrong there?
Massapequa, New York