PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES AS SPORTING EVENTS. I posted several times four years ago about how much I dislike the format of the presidential debates. For example, I pointed out here that, unlike in France, the debates are joint press conferences where the candidates don’t have time to develop arguments. I cited here Doris Kearns Goodwin’s judgment that the format of the debates make it hard for the candidates to deal with large issues. The September Atlantic had a cover —photoshopped—showing Romney and Obama as boxers landing punches on each other. The cover illustrated a story by James Fallows about the upcoming Obama-Romney debates, the first of which takes place tonight. That story was illustrated with additional 11 photoshopped pictures presenting the debates as a boxing match. Consistent with the view that debates as we know them have little to do with serious discussion of important issues, Fallows remarks that: “…the easiest way to judge ‘victory’in many debates is to watch with the sound off, so you can assess the candidates” ease, tenseness, humor, and other traits signaled by their body language.”

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