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September 8, 2003

Advance Man

Should candidates get debate questions in advance? One theory (alright, it's mine) says yes. In California, they're about to try...

First I learn that the California Broadcasters Association, sponsor of the big debate in the Governor’s race on Sep. 24th, has decided to give the candidates the questions in advance. This logic of this sounded… familar. Reading along, I discover it was a fugitive suggestion of my own, later pushed by Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee, who was a member of a California advisory panel on gubenatorial debates. Weintraub is a reporter I have known for a while, and respect a lot. It was some years ago I exchanged e-mails with him about this counter-intuitive proposal:

The point is not just to let the candidates know the questions. The point is to let the public know the questions, in hopes of stimulating discussion in advance on the key issues the candidates will confront.

I never thought he would get anywhere with it. On Sep. 4th Mickey Kaus said he hates the idea. (“Hello? Earth to Weintraub!”) Weintrab replied to Kaus, with a pretty good defense.

But here is the amusing part (from Kaus): “Fortunately, Schwarzenegger’s being damaged by the (somewhat unfair) charge that he’ll only answer canned questions—so much so that his camp has asked the Broadcasters to change their rule. Let’s hope they do. ..” The candidate who has more or less ducked the press wants the press there, asking its usual zingers, so he can say he isn’t ducking the press at all.

Posted by Jay Rosen at September 8, 2003 6:31 PM