Why Can't Candidates Bring Notes to the Debates?

(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

No, there's nothing fishy going on here.

Apparently, there are a few liberals out there concerned (or maybe just bored) that Mitt Romney brought some kind of a cheat sheet to the debate the other night, because he was seen taking something out of his pocket and putting it on his podium. The participants aren't supposed to bring any notes with them, but his campaign assures us that it was just a handkerchief. I'm not even going to get into the George W. Bush suit bulge affair, because I wouldn't want to encourage any tedious Zapruder-style analysis, but here's my question: Why the hell shouldn't they be allowed to bring notes?

Presidential debates shouldn't be a memorization contest. I'm fairly sure that Mitt Romney would win that hands down; I marveled during the primaries at his ability to say things like, "The answer is yes, Jim, and there are eight reasons why," then rattle off exactly eight things. But that doesn't necessarily mean he'd make a better president than someone without that ability. In fact, debates aren't like anything a president does. While they may illuminate some qualities that are useful, at no point during the next four years will whoever wins have to do another one. It's not like we're going to have a debate between the American president and Ayatollah Khamenei, with Bob Schieffer moderating, to determine whether Iran gets nuclear weapons.

By saying they can't bring notes, what we're saying is that what matters isn't the quality of the arguments presented, it's the performance. But would we lose anything if both Romney and Obama took time to craft their best two-minute case on, say, health care, and then referred to them during their discussion? Of course not. These events are supposed to let us evaluate the candidates' perspectives and what they want to do once they're in office. It's one thing to have all the press coverage afterward be about the performance, but do we have to build that bias into the rules themselves? So let them bring their notes. It might make for a more interesting debate.


So, your opinion is that we all should shrug off the Hanky+gate...


...even though Romney made a special trip back to his podium to pick up the Hanky (and whatever was inside it) after schmoozing post-debate with the crowd on the stage -- then he tried to stuff that bulging Hanky+ wrapped in the notepaper in his inside suit pocket, but was unable, so he handed the bundle over to his son, who put everything in his inside suit pocket.


You DO know that Romney cheated in a January 2008 debate, too, don't you?


The item retrieved from the podium would be one heavily starched handkerchief, but the candidates are given paper and are allowed to take notes. I can understand why he wouldn't want to leave his notes behind, assuming that's what he was collecting.

The candidates should be able to take notes into the debate, but... the candidates don't seem to want that. Perhaps it's thought to be worse to be seen fumbling through notes than it is to be confused about the facts.

Owebama's crib-sheet would have been empty, anyway , even if they could have brought notes....and if 's all about memorization, Uncle Joe hasn't got a chance against Ryan...

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