I've been reading a lot about the moderators' performance at the GOP debate last night. (As an aside the decision of CNBC to limit viewers only to cable subscribers was unconscionable.) Much of the complaining both from the people on stage and others has related to their "liberal" bias or whatever. Leaving aside that CNBC provided the inspiration for the Tea Party, it seems to me whether the moderators were biased or not is irrelevant, since it's particularly useful to see how different people respond to a variety of "biased" points of view. That presents an opportunity for a candidate to really shine in how he/she answers a question. Attacking the moderator is rarely revealing, but something he/she could say is. "thanks for the question which I think relates to [policy position] and here's what I would do in regard to that." If you want the moderator to simply throw softballs, my guess is we would learn nothing about the candidates ability to deal with the opposition he/she will certainly face from Congress.
On the other hand, the format is ridiculous. Too many people on the platform and not enough time for anything other than simplistic answers. The candidates should fight that. They should demand time for at least 3-4 minute answers, not that they would have to use up all the time and could certainly cede some of their time to others on stage if they wished. We've certainly come a long way from the Lincoln Douglas debates where the two would often speak in great depth for several hours on issues.
As a general rule, it's been my impression that moderators often make themselves the issue which is precisely what they should not do. One should leave such an event thinking about what the panelists or candidates said, not how the moderator behaved.
Were I a moderator these are some questions I'd like to see asked of each of the candidates answer given each at least 5 minutes per question.
1. The GOP would seem to be the party favoring allotting power to the states more than the federal government. As president, what issues are properly the role of the federal government and which belong to the states? How would you go about making changes in that allocation of power.
2. Key for any president is his/her ability to gain a majority in the House and Senate for legislation. What skills do you bring to the table in order to gain those majorities and what should the role of compromise be in that?
3. Several former government officials have discussed the "shadow governments" that exist within our large bureaucracy, for example a rogue CIA or other department that manages to make its own policy. How would you identify and address that concern?
4. The president has to hire a lot of people and will have to delegate much of that role to others. How would you go about making sure that the people you hire are on board with your theory of government?