The South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary Debate

I’ve been meaning to say a few words about the debates.

What debates? Do I mean those glorified press conferences the Democratic Oratory and Rhetoric Society has been staging, the tenth episode of which will be performed in Charleston, S.C. Tuesday night at 8 PM Eastern on CBS.

Judging by the media coverage of the previous episode of my favorite Reality TV show, the Nevada Debate was the most important debate since Lincoln v. Douglas in 1858. The 19.7 million viewers set the record for a Democratic debate in TV history, increasing the number of primary debate fans who have no idea about what constitutes a real debate.

First of all, our so-called debates are a sham, a hoax perpetrated on the gullible American public since 1972. It is a mutant created by the sainted League of Women Voters, for the 1972 presidential election.

At that point in time, candidates didn’t want to debate on TV. Debates were risky. People could focus on whether you need a shave, as Nixon found out. Sweat underneath the nose was a sign of nerves. Even worse, a candidate could lose in a debate.

A non-partisan organization of do-gooders, the League brokered a compromise candidates felt they could live with. The new concept was a glorified press conference. With a cast of super star journalists, headed by moderator-generals like Wolf Blitzkrieg, it was lucky if viewers knew the name of the candidates, no less what they stood, or sat, on the issues.


Okay, Mister Smart Guy, I say to myself, what is a debate?

My memory is shot from all my professional TV viewing as a critic, but as I recall in ancient Athens, or wherever debating was invented, it used to work something like this: Two people would enter a stage. One would say, “My worthy opponent is a lying scum bag, and here’s why.”

The other would say, “Au contraire, my fellow Americans, my otherwise unworthy opponent is a lying dirty mop. And here’s why.”

The two opponents would go back and forth, exploring the nuances of major and minor bones of contention for an hour or seven days, in the case of Lincoln v. Douglas.

Often a real debate serendipitously would uncover interesting differences of opinions. In the long debates prior to the Civil War, for example, a senator made a case that slavery had to continue because it was a critical component of the shipping industry. His opponent suggested that the shipper find another cargo.

In ye olde fashioned form of debating, the public could compare where the two debaters stood on the issues and make judgments accordingly.

With a massed press conference, a computer is needed for comparative analysis because all the candidates are not asked the same question by the interrogation team, one by one, down the row. The cause of educating the voter is further confused by the revolving door technique popular today, whereby candidates are allowed the flexibility of changing their opinions from week to week, depending on which talk show or venue.

“These are my principles,“ a noted Marxist once said, “If you don’t like them, I have others.” At least Groucho Marx stood by that basic principle.

Of course, in Ancient Greece the debaters were Plato vs. Socrates.

Historically, the most qualified candidate in these mass press conferences often seemed the moderator and star interrogator, Wolf Blitzer. He always seemed to be the best informed, most knowledgeable about the issues, most articulate and most in command in times of stress, such as needing to break for commercials. Blitzer who looks like a U- boat commander, as Bill O’Reilly once put it, “You expect the periscope to come down, and the torpedoes fired away.” Wolfie is the most experienced, having served in these debates since the last century


To be fair, little did the League realize they would be contributing to befogging the public in the name of clarification? Little did they realize a generation of millennials would grow up watching TV and other improvements in communications and wind up debate-impaired. A real debate would seem like they were being hassled by too much information.

Little did they realize there would be generations of Undecideds trying to make up their own minds and vote based on the last thing they read on social media? A totally confusing and clumsy format is not kind to comparative decision-making.


The major attraction in the blockbuster Nevada debate was the thrilling news that the Democratic National Committee geniuses were allowing Mike Bloomberg to participate by changing their already perplexing rules.

Mighty Mike made the cut because he finally met the two criteria established by the Democratic brass to reduce the original field of 25, a mob scene which reminded me of the start of the Marathon on the Verrazano Bridge last November:

  1. Standing in the four approved polls
  2. Amount of money raised

Mike had no problem with the money issue, since he appeared to be spending as much as the GNP of some Third World nations for his commercials, which led some Democrats to think he was the only candidate.

Replacing the boys in the smoked -filled backrooms with polling is another step in establishing a pollocracy. Already our news coverage of political campaigns is not about issues so much as whose ahead in the horse race.

Adding the money qualification struck me as even worse for a party that preached differentiate itself from Republican slaves to the $$$$$$$ donor class. Talk about your hypocrisy.

The purpose of the first nine debates so far seemed to be making the electorate think that 2020 was about issues. For six months, debate after debate, it was who had the best health plan: Medicare for all, some, or none? Not to mention, who’s going to pay for something that would never get past Mitch Do Nothing Except Get Rid of Anything Obama Did McConnell in the Senate, in any and all variations.

Issues? Aimed at a TV audience, many of who were unable to connect more than one or possibly two steps in an equation of cause and effect.

Issues? When the only issue should be the most qualified to beat President Four More Years! He doesn’t debate issues. Who is best able to deal with his lies, which occur any time his mouth is open.

The second goal of the lucky debate candidates seemed to be committing partycide by using the debates as a circular firing squad: Whichever candidate had a good week in the polling numbers and raising the dough had a target on their backs.

Here was a fat sitting duck waiting to be plucked and the candidates were bringing each other down in the eyes of voters. By defenestration, they have made President Plump happy as a log who can play golf until November and still be the only impeached president to be given a second four years to do whatever he wants.


Marvin Kitman, Fifth Columnist
Feb. 24, 2020

Marvin Kitman is the author of “The Making of the Preƒident 1789.” “George Washington’s Expense Account” by Gen. George Washington and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.) was the best-selling expense account in publishing history. His next book, “Gullible's Travels, A Comical History of the Trump Era,” coming from Seven Stories Press May 5, 2020, is now available for pre-order.