Bring Back Lincoln-Douglas Style Debates

By Dick Morris on November 2, 2015

The historic debates between Republican Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln and the Democratic incumbent Stephen A. Douglas unfolded in Illinois in 1858 without benefit of media staging. The two candidates took their turns in speaking, rebutting, and attacking, one after the other without judges, referees or even time limits. Just mano a mano, one-on-one.

That’s how Republican debates should be structured for the remainder of the year. Who needs reporters? Who needs networks?

C-SPAN will probably cover the debate even if no journalists participate and no network gets to be the sponsor. Just line up the candidates and let each one speak for two or three minutes and then go back to the beginning and let them speak for a second time. In two hours, at two minutes each, ten candidates would get to speak six times apiece. Better yet, cut the field to the top seven. Right now, that would be Trump, Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Fiorina, and Huckabee. Cut out Rand Paul, Chris Christy, and John Kasich. They have had three bites at the apple and have not been able to get above 5% of the vote consistently.

Every candidate would be able to rebut and to challenge the others. There will be enough time to explore thoroughly any issues they choose to address. There would be plenty of opportunity for rebuttal. Just cut out the reporters from the process.

If candidates did not raise key issues on their own, hold it against them at the polls, don’t import journalists to second guess them.

Some are urging that we simply bar liberal journalists from the debates. But why have any journalists at all? We don’t have journalists on the Senate floor do we? Let each candidate speak for himself and address what he wants and be silent on issues when he chooses to be. It’s all part of the give and take of a political campaign that helps us to choose the right person to lead our party into the election.

The networks want in on the debates so that they can sell advertising time to audiences multiple times as large as they normally draw. The debates are profit centers. But the liberal journalists have abused their privilege. So who needs them?

This decision can be made by one man: Reince Priebus, the GOP National Chairman. He doesn’t need to consult with any network or even with any candidate. If he builds it, they will come. If he sponsors a debate, the candidates will come, CSPAN cameras will come, the news media will cover it and the Republican Party will be free!

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