After Robert George, the Future of Intellectuals and GOP Debates

In light of Princeton professor Robert George helping moderate the GOP debate yesterday, I’ve been playing around with the idea that we could have several serious conservatives, from academia and the think tank world, grill potential GOP presidential candidates.

My first instinct would be go for the heavy hitters on all policy fronts, people like Charles Krauthammer,…

  1. Yankee Whig

    I would add one more adjustment: no live audiences. Nobody but the candidates and the panelists/moderators should appear. The absence of cheering or booing crowds will alter the atmosphere, and force candidates to actually answer the questions. Being carefully probed by intelligent people who know what they’re talking about will force Bachmann to explain how she would actually get gas below $2 per gallon. I think Romney, Gingrich and Huntsman would do well with this type of format to the detriment of candidates who throw red meat one liners, although it would be interesting so see how they would alter their debate style. The problem is that any such debate would have fewer viewers than Book TV, as debates are more or less bread and circuses anyway.

  2. Diane Ellis
    C

    I love this idea.  It forces candidates to deviate from their heavily scripted talking points, and to delve deeper into specific policy areas. Of course, this means a lot more homework for them, which is a good thing in my opinion.

    I second your list, and I nominate Ricochet’s own Paul Rahe of Hillsdale College to be a question asker.

  3. Diane Ellis
    C
    Eric Ames: I would add one more adjustment: no live audiences. Nobody but the candidates and the panelists/moderators should appear. The absence of cheering or booing crowds will alter the atmosphere, and force candidates to actually answer the questions.

    Brilliant stipulation.  The way some candidates calibrate their responses simply to elicit applause is really irksome, and I’d love to see them cornered into actually articulating a persuasive position on an issue.

  4. Percival
    AngloCon: What about Thomas Sowell? 

    And no, Obama is not another of the smartest men in America. I doubt he’s one of the smartest men in the White House. · Sep 6 at 9:21pm

    Dr. Sowell would be an excellent choice.

    Unfortunately, I think Obama is one of the smartest men in this White House.  He seems to be that kind of “leader” that tends to surround himself with people who both agree with him and provide no real intellectual challenge to his top-dog status. 

    He not only is the smartest person in the room, he needs to be. Narcissism and insecurity are an ugly combination.

  5. Western Chauvinist

    It t’aint the questions, it’s the follow-ups…  Hugh Hewitt.

    Otherwise, I agree completely with the rest of the plan.  I’d even watch TV to see that!

  6. nick
    Starve the Beast: As long as we’re fantasizing about forcing our nominee wannabees to go off script, I think there may be better formats than a debate.

    … · Sep 6 at 8:42pm

    Agreed that intense interviews by relentless interviewers would be better than debates. Better still to have the interviews based on written examinations. Really make ‘em sweat. Find out what our prospective representatives know; their strengths and weaknesses; their character. Let the interview run as long as necessary. Make it part of the public record. Then, make them sign contracts re: what they will and won’t do in office; how they will address their weaknesses; who they will hire to assist, and so on. Make sure the contract sets out the punishment for breach. Make the punishment hurt.

  7. Josh Lerner

    I would add one more adjustment: no live audiences. Nobody but the candidates and the panelists/moderators should appear. The absence of cheering or booing crowds will alter the atmosphere, and force candidates to actually answer the questions. Being carefully probed by intelligent people who know what they’re talking about will force Bachmann to explain how she would actually get gas below $2 per gallon. I think Romney, Gingrich and Huntsman would do well with this type of format to the detriment of candidates who throw red meat one liners, although it would be interesting so see how they would alter their debate style. The problem is that any such debate would have fewer viewers than Book TV, as debates are more or less bread and circuses anyway.

    I think that’s an excellent idea. Making these less and less like canned speeches and more like actual debates would be excellent. And in this format, sometimes politicians can, in fact, thrive: consider when Reagan debated William F. Buckley on the Panama Canal Treaty. Would any of our current presidential candidates (besides Newt) agree to something like that today?

  8. liberal jim

    This would prove interesting, but not go far in solving my problem.  Romney came out with a 59 page “jobs plan”.  I have not read it, and probably won’t.  I am not concerned with the idea that Romney can’t produce a jobs plan that is appealing to conservative voters.  My concern is would Romney work to enact the plan once elected or throw it in a trash can and be about the business of trying to get the editors of the NYT to say something nice about him  Only Bachman and Paul do not produce for me worries of this kind.

  9. Tommy De Seno
    C

    The only challenge the idea will get is that of elitism. 

    I like the idea so long as the first hour is followed by a second hour of questions live from America’s lunch counters at local diners.

    Eric’s no audience idea rocks.

  10. Louie Mungaray (Squishy Blue RINO)

    Love it, great idea! 

  11. Michael Labeit

    The best questions would come from Dr. Epstein, hands down. He’d need his own intro music. Imagine it for yourself. Putting the candidates to shame.

  12. Pseudodionysius

    Its such a good idea that I’ll spend the rest of the week trying to find a way to take credit for it. One more request: the debate video should be put up in the public domain on something like Vimeo (or some other site that allows very long video clips)  with no comments aloud on the Vimeo site. A public domain piece of history for all to view.

  13. Pseudodionysius
    Michael Labeit: The best questions would come from Dr. Epstein, hands down. He’d need his own intro music. Imagine it for yourself. Putting the candidates to shame. · Sep 6 at 8:20pm

    I want to see him ask a question on the Code of Justinian.

  14. Tak

    I really do like this idea. I think the stipulation about live audiences is also a great one. I loved how Rep. Bachmann got grilled by Prof. George “Really? That’s in the Constitution?” 

  15. Starve the Beast

    As long as we’re fantasizing about forcing our nominee wannabees to go off script, I think there may be better formats than a debate.

    How about a sit-down with these people, one on one, and have the interviewer oversee the final editing. So, for example:

    “Good evening, Governor Perry. I’m Dr. Krauthammer. Tonight, I’d like to explore some of your positions in detail. As I explained earlier, you and I will have a two-hour conversation that I will edit down into a video no more than 30 minutes long. Filibusters will be cut, as will cookie-cutter answers to specific, detailed questions. Only material that I regard as substantive will be included in the final edit.

    “As you may know, my recent interview with Governor Romney only ran about four minutes. I am hoping, sir, that we can do better this time.”

    I mean, as long as we’re dreaming…

  16. EJHill

    I would rather see in-depth 60-minute one-on-ones. Eliminate the, “Congresswoman, he just called you an ignorant, racist, homophobe with with narcissistic tendencies… You have 20 seconds to completely refute the charge….”

  17. Michael Tee

    I actually disagree with this on all accounts.

    I think the debaters should ask each other questions. It should not only be done in front of an audience, I think it should be done in an actual bar, where the patrons (audience) can interject and ask questions.

    ETA: I’m waiting for the famous question that was asked of G.W. Bush to be asked of Mr. Obama: What was your biggest policy mistake in office in your first term?

  18. tabula rasa
    Josh Lerner: 

    My first instinct would be go for the heavy hitters on all policy fronts, people like Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Victor Davis Hanson, and Michael Barone, and then move to more specialized persons, like Charles Murray, Yuval Levin, Richard Epstein, John  Bolton etc. 

    I like the idea, but George Will has got to make the A team.

    At what level would we run into Michael Savage on a panel?

  19. tabula rasa

    One other thought.  I’ve always believed that a sense of humor is essential in a leader (Obama completely lacks one).

    So how about a panel that includes Rob Long, Andy Ferguson, P. J. O’Rourke, and whoever does the Parody page at The Weekly Standard?

  20. Keith Preston

    Of course it’s a great idea!  Which is why it will never happen!  /s

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