Here’s an idea: how about we use instant replay in the presidential debates?
After the last presidential debate, I did look at various fact-checking services—and it’s incredible how many outright lies and unforgivable exagerrations the candidates put forth. More incredible is that the so-called journalists don’t have the backbone to call them on the spot. But they don’t. At least not during the debate, when it would matter the most. You have to go to alternative sites for that, later.
A confession: I haven’t watched Donald and Company mix it up on stage at the debates. I haven’t wanted to and I haven’t had to. Because it’s reality TV, packaged to benefit everybody but the voters, and you hear snippets accordingly from mass media. All because it’s an inexpensive way to get ratings and attention. So I hear about it whether I want to or not.
Major sports have adopted instant replay challenges in various forms. The idea is to get the call right. It doesn’t always work, but it does move toward greater accuracy.
So why not something similar in debates? The candidates have been coached not to answer questions, and to ignore the question and go off on their own talking points. When they do answer, they often spout lies or exaggerations. And sometimes they strike a chord with a segment of the audience, and it looks like a win.
But what if, in real time, they were checked. And they got called on their BS. In real time. On TV. In front of real people when it would make the greatest impact. That would be what we call a teaching moment.
Not sure how it would work, but I’m certain it could be made to work. I wouldn’t leave it to the other candidates to call for a challenge, because, well, that’s the problem: I don’t trust them. And none of them wants to be challenged back, so there’d be a reluctance.
It could be a bipartisan panel consisting of reps from conservative and liberal groups (for primaries, too, yes, because BS is BS). They’d have a limited number of challenges each. They’d throw it to factcheck.org or politifact or some agreed upon combination of organizations. Or an agreed upon panel of reps from research institutes and news organizations, fully wired and equipped in a war room. There’d be a pause, yes, but it’d be worth it.
If there’s a challenge, and the candidate is vindicated, fine. But if it’s BS, as with the vaccination thing that got circulated in the last debate, the challenger in the panel gets up to three minutes to grill that lying candidate about why (s)he lied.
It’s not perfect. But since these debates have devolved into bad reality TV, it’d be nice to inject some real-time accountability into it.
And then it’d really be reality TV.