Presidential Debates Need Mute Button
October 8, 2012

In some ways you had to feel sorry for Jim Lehrer. In other ways, you couldn't stop yelling at your television. As the moderator of the first Presidential debate Wednesday night, the host of PBS Newshour couldn't get in a word edgewise. He was the one who was supposed to be running the show, and yet it was like he was a greeter at Walmart on Black Friday. I have an idea on how to fix that.

All they have to do is make the next debate similar to a two-hour episode of ESPN's Around The Horn. If you aren't familiar with that program, every Monday through Friday afternoon, host Tony Reali has four sportswriters on from around the country (usually one from each time zone) and they argue the sports topics of the day. The hook is that Reali has a joystick he uses to give out points based on the validity of the arguments, and also has a mute button so if everyone is talking at once, he can shut them up.

Now while having Lehrer score the debate might be fun, it also may be a little too subjective for a news man, and neither candidate would likely to agree to it. The mute button, however, is key. We've known for about six years that when Barack Obama's time is up, he always says “let me make one last point,” and speaks for another minute. Lehrer, or whomever the next moderator is, can push the mute button and cut the President's mic. It's that simple. During Wednesday's debate, when Mitt Romney's time expired and Lehrer tried to interject, it felt like Romney was about to tell Lehrer to shut up, or at least shush him as if to say “Be quiet. Daddy's talking now.” One mute button, no problem.

There are plenty of uses for the mute button other when the guys talk too long. For instance, when Romney is asked to say how he would create jobs, and starts saying how the deficit increased under Obama, or when Obama says Romney's economic plan is a five-trillon dollar tax when he is asked about education, Lehrer can mute the candidate and tell him to get back on point.

It always seems, though, that in the open of the telecast when the rules are explained, we know darn well that they aren't going to be followed. I think Lehrer said there were going to be six segments. You pretty much knew that wasn't going to happen in the allotted two hours for national television. Not only would it be more informative, but it would be more fun for the viewer if the rules were strictly adhered to, and the moderator could shut the candidates up from time to time.

Now to make the debates fun is a different topic entirely. Instead of the ESPN approach, maybe they could go Nickelodeon instead. If the candidates go over time, green slime could be dumped on their head. If they insist on talking when told to shut up, or say things that aren't true, a trap door opens, the candidate falls down a 200-foot slide with twists and turns, and drops into a vat of pudding. Maybe not the most practical idea, but THAT would certainly get the voters to tune in! The all-important Vice Presidential debate is Thursday.

Baseball beat: Major League Baseball keeps promoting the fact that two playoff games are on the MLB Network like it's a good thing. It's not. Most cable companies have the channel on a more expensive sports tier, and many customers (like myself) do not subscribe. Sunday's 9am Oakland A's game was the first game on the network, but at least a friend invited me over, and made a breakfast party out of it. The MLB Network will televise one more game—the Cardinals and Nationals—Wednesday at 10am.

After 19 years in the big leagues, and a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-like farewell tour, retiring Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has gotten a lot of gifts. He got two more in his last major league at-bat. On the last play of the National League Wild Card game Friday, Jones grounded to second base, but the throw was wide of first. First baseman Allen Craig got his foot on the bag before Jones arrived, but the umpires ruled Chipper safe. A nice going-away present from the men in blue. The second gift was from the official scorer, who credited Jones with a hit. Jones should have been out, ending the game and his career. Even if he was safe, it should have been on an error.

If you went out Sunday night and taped the Giants game on TBS, you would have been upset when you came home. Because of a 2½-hour rain delay in Baltimore, the Giants game was shown on TNT. TBS did air the last two innings of the Giants game after the Yankees-Orioles game ended.

The better-seeded teams lost four of the first five games (including the two wild card games) before winning three in a row on Sunday. With the Cardinals beating the Nationals this afternoon, and the Yankees loss tonight, the favored teams are 4-6.

Happy Birthday to Uncle Marty tomorrow (Tuesday).

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