Why the debates are like Soviet puppet shows, Part #3832 (John Edwards, Democrats, Drexel)
An example of just how much of a public disservice the presidential "debates" have been is offered in John Edwards' answers to a couple questions from NBC News' Brian Williams at last night's Democratic debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia (link, direct link).
Williams asked this:
Senator Edwards, should there be a bottomless well of federal dollars for people who knowingly live in areas of this country that are disaster-prone to rebuild their homes if lost in a disaster?
Edwards first responds by saying the "national community" should be there for victims; in other words, he said nothing. Then, he launched into the speech part of his presentation, discussing his trips to New Orleans, federal contracts, etc. He didn't answer the question, so Williams' follow-up was this:
But does smarter mean any limits? Let's just take 20 seconds more here -- from Malibu to the Outer Banks down to Florida -- should there be unlimited federal authority...
Edwards once again doesn't answer the question, only saying that there should be limits. Obviously, everyone knows there are always going to be limits, and what we need is a grown-up discussion of where those limits are and tangible examples of what policies the candidates would push in disaster-prone areas. And, if they've already supported such policies, then the flaws in their existing policies need to be pointed out.
Are we to believe that Brian Williams is so naive that he thought Edwards was going to outright answer such a weak, non-specific question as he asked? Is he completely incompetent? Or was he basically just a set-up man, giving the candidates the intros to their speeches?
A real debate would have involved things such as hypothetical situations and would have involved Edwards' previous statements and actions in this regard. Surely, NBC has dozens of researchers available and has access to people at think tanks who spend all day thinking about these issues. Surely, they could have combined the two to come up with real questions about this issue. The only honest reason I can think of them to avoid that level of debate is time constraints, but that won't wash: time could have been made to delve into one or two topics if they actually wanted to.