When it comes to debates, more is better

Friday, February 10, 2006

Are debates the best way to select a leader?

Not necessarily.

The pressure of a debate probably adds more gray hairs to a campaign manager's scalp than his candidate's latest verbal faux pax or an unfolding scandal. The public performance of a debate puts too much at risk, unnecessarily, with too little time before the election, politicos may feel.

It could be argued that political debates are a better way to determine a candidate's personality and stage presence than a way to ferret out his ability to make the best decision in a cool, thoughtful manner.

But there is something to be said for the focus that a debate brings to a campaign, the preparation for extemporaneous sparring that can force a candidate to solidify positions on various issues in his or her mind.

It also forces, for at least a limited time, the media and voting public to examine those important issues in detail, instead of the superfluous questions that can arise during a political race.

And, there's something to be said for determining how a candidate handles himself or herself under the spotlight.

Tom Osborne and Dave Nabity have agreed to three, 90-minute debates; March 6 in North Platte; March 26 in Lincoln and April 24 in Omaha.

That's good.

But Dave Heineman has proposed six April debates -- in Norfolk, McCook, Scottsbluff/Gering, Grand Island, Omaha and Lincoln.

That would be better.

Osborne has argued that too many debates would distract from his duties in Washington, representing Nebraska's 3rd District in Congress, and he has a point.

But Heineman has another job as well, and if the governor has time for six debates, a congressman should as well.

No, debates aren't the complete answer when it comes to deciding for whom to cast our votes.

But when it comes to opportunities to examine the issues, more is better.

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