The Presidential Debates Are Nothing But Scripted Beauty Contests

George Washington's picture

Painting by Anthony Freda:

The "spontaneous" questions from audience members are actually pre-screened, and even the moderator is forbidden from asking follow-up questions:

Gawker's John Cook succinctly sums up the rigged debates:

Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards


Both campaigns are terrified at anything even remotely spontaneous happening.

They aren't permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a "predesignated area." And for the town-hall-style debate tomorrow night, the audience members posing questions aren't allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.

Glenn Greenwald notes:

The moderators were selected to ensure that nothing unexpected is asked and that only the most staid and establishment views are heard. As journalism professor Jay Rosen put it when the names of the moderators were unveiled, using terms to describe those views that are acceptable in Washington media circles and those which are "fringe":

"In order to be considered as a candidate for moderator you have to be soaked in the sphere of consensus, likely to stay within the predictable inner rings of the sphere of legitimate controversy, and unlikely in the extreme to select any questions from the sphere of deviance."

Here then, within this one process of structuring the presidential debates, we have every active ingredient that typically defines, and degrades, US democracy. The two parties collude in secret. The have the same interests and goals. Everything is done to ensure that the political process is completely scripted and devoid of any spontaneity or reality.

All views that reside outside the narrow confines of the two parties are rigidly excluded. Anyone who might challenge or subvert the two-party duopoly is rendered invisible.

Lobbyists who enrich themselves by peddling their influence run everything behind the scenes. Corporations pay for the process, which they exploit and is then run to bolster rather than threaten their interests. The media's role is to keep the discourse as restrictive and unthreatening as possible while peddling the delusion that it's all vibrant and free and independent and unrestrained. And it all ends up distorting political realities far more than illuminating them while wildly exaggerating the choices available to citizens and concealing the similarities between the two parties.

To understand the US political process, one can just look to how these sham debates are organized and how they function. This is the same process that repeats itself endlessly in virtually every other political realm.

Indeed, the Republican and Democratic parties have long formed Gentlemen's agreements - through the "Presidential Debate Commission" - on what topics are "off-limits" (and which journalists can even ask questions) during presidential debates:

As this 4-minute video shows, - they both ignore the desires of their own bases:

The American people are sick of both the Republican and Democratic party, and yearn for something different. See this, this and this.

No wonder ... the mainstream Democratic and Republican parties agree on most matters which affect American lives the most directly. Here, here, here here and here.

Obama and Romney are virtually indistinguishable on most core issues. For example: jobs, freedoms and favoring fatcats instead of the little guy.

The Founding Fathers warned - at the very birth of our nation - against a two-party system as being destructive to liberty.

If we opened the debates up to third parties, it would show how similar the GOP and Democratic Party really are:

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MikeMcGspot's picture

Thanks George.

As I observe many voters I know talking with folks and in viewing the candidates it appears few are prepared to discuss or debate policy topics of consequence outside a very narrow range of prepackaged memes given to them.

Most are bound by labels they attatch to themselves to fill a predesigned void or box, then merrily go about filling it up with color coordinated sound bites to assuage the fears they hold and so have some sense of power over their destiny through hero/heroine figures.

Though information is so abundant, few are well equiped or have the time to do independent research, challenge their own beliefs or set a context for themself outside of fast food thinking in terms of directions to take for real self interests over time within the hive or out.

TTFN Zhedge - As Will once wrote "All the world is a stage. All men and women merely players"

Time to play, I have to work on my script and costume.






Tombstone's picture

The RINOS verses the Communists.  Of course the debates are pre-planned.  Does anyone believe either party has the balls, integrity and knowledge to answer a tough question truthfully?  We are dealing with politicians whose only purpose is to be elected to office, abuse their power and enslave the citizen.  They are supposed to be OUR slaves and work for us.  It has been decades since they have remembered their place.

W10321303's picture

A show to reassure the Plutocrats that THEIR boys will never offer any real or workable alternatives. This is the final push to bring back full-scale chattle slavery, with the U.S. as the largest plantation of all time.

piceridu's picture

George these guys shed more light on the phony debates...

onebir's picture

Dull obvious article - yet again from GW, bit of a pattern here - but thanks for the introduction to Anthony Frieda (WB7 for the people?)

AnAnonymous's picture

Ah, another article of that kind.

'Americanism' has killed debate? What a surprisingly unexpected discovery. Shall earn a nobel prize or something...

The collection of all these articles could be published as a book titled "Americanism for the dummies".

onebir's picture

Zai yi ci nihao pengyou. Tongyi shangmian de wenjian shi wuliao de, zhutai tai mingxian le.

Dan ni xie de ye you dian wuliao aaaaa!

Fix It Again Timmy's picture

The essence of politics is one word: THEFT.  Every politician you see or listen to, every political party, every governmental building you see can be distilled into one word: theft.  That's the mindset ordinary Americans must obtain - good luck with that...

rustymason's picture

Da peoples do not want honesty in their political "debates." They are allergic to the truth. They want only drama and promises to soothe their emotions. They have grown up on TV, Hollywood movies, Madison Avenue advertising, and endless propaganda in the government schools. They would soil their breeches if they heard any truth and punish the one who brought it.

DonutBoy's picture

There's a simple solution to ending scripted debates, don't watch.  At the end of the day your gripe is not with the two party system or the debate commission - it's with the voters.  They obviously care about this theater and are unwilling to think through the consequences of a decision or seriously support a third-party candidate.  So be it - they're getting what they've asked for.

Not to worry though.  When things get truly ugly new parties will have their day.  Typically the facists rise in the vacuum between reality and the conventional parties.

LoCicero's picture

All polls show that the American people are fed up with the Duopoly and ready to support a new party (Hopefully, one that won't repeat the mistakes of the Libertarian Party).

But I'll bet if I were to ask (as I've done on other forums) how many of you whiners here on zh are willing to get off your obese asses and actually WORK to have a new party on the ballot by 2014, I would hear the sound of silence.

(And, yes, I've done it before - helped organize the Conservative Party of NY State in 1962; worked for Perot in '92 & '96). 

It's not too early to start organizing the day after the 2012 elections.

So let's see a show of hands please: Whiners vs. workers



rustymason's picture

The people 55 and older still believe in the broken system. They believe that if we tweak this or that and just get the right people in, things will change. They are the ones keeping the corruption growing.

sgt_doom's picture

Excellent blog post, GW, and Farah laid it out nicely awhile back in his book:

No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates, by George Farah

The upcoming election should really be about  President Obama on the rightwing, and Dr. Jill Stein representing the authentic leftwing.


Matte_Black's picture

Haha all my fave commentators in a single thread...Hey guys. It's been a while. Hope you are all well.

I suppose it is possible that I am just depressed, but I can't help feeling like this is all a bad dream. Oh sure, I've been around and watching this shitshow for 50 years now...but still. I have moments lately when I feel like I'm suffering a bad hangover from a particularly good Dead show - the kind where you think the acid may have been stronger than it seemed at the moment.

It brings to mind a poster that was popular in the 60s... it said something like, "we who have done so much with so little for so long will now attempt to do the impossible with nothing".

Oh well. I'll get over it, I'm sure. Best wishes.

mayhem_korner's picture




If you are saying that the two parties are indistinguishable, then is there really two parties?  If not, why make the point that the founding fathers feared a two-party system?  Whether there are two parties - or moreover two belief systems - represented by the current candidates is itself debatable.  But there are certainly divergent belief systems resident in the masses. 

For example, there are those who view food stamps with compassion for those who have suffered misfortune, but with disdain toward the lazy and irresponsible who are milking the system/relying on redistributive policies.  Then there are those who view food stamps with compassion for those who have suffered misfortune, but with disdain toward the undeserving 1% who have stolen the ability of others to provide for themselves.  In no one's book would those two views be considered aligned and indistinguishable.

Moreover, neither candidate would articulate (the second part of) either one of those positions because it would cost them the election.  But that doesn't mean they aren't thinking it.  So I agree with you that the real debate doesn't happen when the sheeple are watching, but I don't think the parties are indistinguisable.

sgt_doom's picture

What's all the drivel about the food stamp???

THIS is what the discussion should center on:

A brief review is in order due to further uncovered information over the past 3 years.

The constant refrain, up to the present, on “casino capitalism” and “casino bets” and other such nonsense was pure Wall Street propaganda, misinformation and disinformation to hide and obfuscate the reality: massive and total insider trading of rigged deals in rigged markets.

A short look at their “free market”: the Abacus CDO, which hedge fund guy, John Paulson, made $3.4 billion (paid off due to TARP bailout funds via the taxpayer), consisted of Paulson and Goldman Sachs working together to design a doomed deal, the Abacus CDO, full of crappy sure-to-default mortgages, then Paulson and GS purchased CDSes (naked credit default swaps, or unregulated insurance fraud instruments) against the sure-to-default deal they created and knowingly peddled.

At $1.4 million per CDS, the return was $100 million per — only the banksters could create such instruments to defraud the public and dramatically increase the national debt by robbing and destroying the national tax base and tax revenues!

Another example of designed-to-fail, pure insider trading: Magnatar Capital, a Chicago hedge fund with a 96% default rate on all their deals (same CDO/CDS scam) with the defaults triggering the CDS payouts.

These, and many other similar deals, had nothing to do with progress, innovation, productivity or creation, they simply enriched a select few (pathological lying super-crooks and psychopaths) while destroying much — dramatically increasing the national debt — these examples are how all those multi-billionaires came into being, and why the debt is so colossal today.

All those CDSes, much of it sold through AIG, is exactly why a $17 trillion bailout took place to pay them off ($16.1 trillion through the Federal Reserve during 2007-2009, with another $.9 trillion from Treasury).

And nobody went to jail and the same super-crook, Gary Gensler, who enabled recent multi-billion dollar thievery of Jon Corzine at MF Global, is still head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). (Corzine illegally stole segregated, or individual investment, accounts to pay off JPMorgan Chase’s margin call for their collateral.)

FeralSerf's picture

The food stamp drivel is a diversion.  Of course you're right!  If the food stamp program wasn't in place, the goobermint would still be paying Big Ag to overproduce just like they did before food stamps.  The difference is the goobermint would also be paying for the storage of those commodities they bought and after they stored them for a number of years, they'd pay to destroy those same commodities.  Furthermore, the costs of that farm support program known as food stamps is only a few percent of the cost of the bank bailouts that dramatically enriched the .01% at the expense of the taxpayer.  There were no starving .01%ers before the bailouts, unlike many that get food stamps.

One Ton Lady's picture

Criminal jewish mafia money on the left and criminal jewish mafia money on the right. Wow, sometimes it soooooooo hard to make a good choice for the Presidency anymore.  Here we are over 200 years after the founding of this nation. Who would have thunk it that we have come this far?

mayhem_korner's picture

Who would have thunk it that we have come this far?


Plato, Thomas More, Karl Marx, Alinski, and BHO would argue that we haven't come far enough yet.

FeralSerf's picture

Hegel would argue otherwise.

Keyser's picture

If we want real answers, we need to forget these numpties put on a pedestal and focus on the real power. Hijack the Bilderberg group and the Council on Foreign Affairs and water board these fuckers until the spit out the truth. Obama and Romney are merely the lastest actors that fit the suit of clothes for their respective roles in the big game. 


larz's picture

JOKE - what a JOKE I am embarrassed what a bunch of pink panties

falak pema's picture

Here is an interesting statistic : the unemployment rate jumped up bigtime in the second decile of October....hmmmmm! 

Etats-Unis: fort rebond des nouvelles inscriptions au chômage

O'bammy's statistics manipulation is part of incumbent's political religion.

TrulyStupid's picture

All three sides (including the MSM whose interest is to keep the race close for maximum ad revenue) manipulate statistics as required to serve their divergent interests. All three rewrite past history to suit their own propaganda narrative.

What's amazing is the pliability of the electorate who don't notice the contradictions with yesterday's narrative or that the same buttons are pushed over and over again. A nation of Pavlov's dogs and Skinners' pigeons.

pods's picture

The debates are merely to give the air of choice to the masses. Sure you can find some divisive questions that get people lined up on one side or another.  But a debate it certainly is not.

Everyone involved in the debates, and I mean everyone, from the the school, video crew, organizers, etc has a vested interest in the "debate" coming off well.

You have to score more points than the other guy, but you cannot ask the questions that show how bought these puppets are.  Rules of the game.

You will never get a question that there is no answer to.  No question that an answer must be worked out.

So in reality, we do not need debates.  

Clown circus without the spark guns.


DaveyJones's picture

scary clown circus - like a B movie. Or a D movie if we're talking credit rating.

rsnoble's picture

We should've had a 3rd podium and had Honey Boo Boo have her say. Free Birth control and free donuts for all grade school students.

FrankDrakman's picture

Honey Boo Boo supports Barry Bambam. She said so on Kimmel last week.

roadhazard's picture

Glad to see you are catching up, George.

Cycle's picture

In a given population of interacting individuals, stupid memes are spread exponentially while intelligent memes are spread arithmetically. Cultural survival is predicated on maintaining a positive difference between the impact of intelligent memes and stupid memes.  However, as the population increases, there reaches a point where stupid memes overwhelm intelligent memes and it all goes to Hell. Which leads to Cycle's Supposition: Democratic government is mathematically possible as long as the population remains below some threshold number. I think the US passed that number sometime in 1800....

HeadBoiler's picture

Very interesting notion about the propagation rate of Stupid memes vs. Intelligent memes.   However, I do not think all is lost as a result of raw population size . . ..  My observations over the last decade are that the "new media" along with certain social media outlets (Twitter mainly) have established themselves as a disruptive force against unchecked expansion of Stupid memes; akin to an antibiotic.   (anti-stupotic?)  While the frequency and stupidity level of the memes coming from the the Left seems to be ever on the rise, the responses are now quick and more effective, often leading to "walk-backs" or "corrections" etc.   The Stupid memes still do some damage, but not as much -- and more and more folks begin to see through it; to develop a level of immunity perhaps.

Ask why Romney is now seemingly pulling away in the face of hundreds of anti-Mitt and pro-Barack Stupid memes?   How is it possible that a sitting president who walks on water, who lights up any room, who is smarter than any other human, who inherited a worse mess than every prior world leader combined, who is constantly thwarted by horrible, evil, selfish, wealthy, racist, stupid republicans, who saved the auto industry, who is loved and praised by all nations, can lose an election to a selfish millionaire, who exports jobs, hates women, prays to magic tablets, lies about everything, wants to crush the middle class, wants to destroy the environment, and just wants to return to the old ideas that nearly destroyed the country (and almost vaporized the entire universe- okay, I made that one up.)? 

I also feel that the liberal choke hold on the youth vote is slipping.   The sub 30 crowd will always lean left, but I feel the margins are leveling because of social media and the intellectual DNA of the smart phone generation.  It's too easy now to check facts - or to forward a "new media" link or RT a compelling tweet with actual links to real data.   (Yes, the crap and Stupid memes are advanced this way too, but there is nothing like facts to quickly kill and smother Stupid.)  Ask Soledad O'Brien and many others in the media who have been smacked down or right out of the Twitter world after pushing Stupid memes too far.


Mercury's picture

Like Ron Paul said, we need to return to a two party system.

However, I'm skeptical that 51% of voters would actually vote away huge swaths of government goodies for themselves. That certainly isn't the case in Europe.

I'm also surprised that Ron Paul didn't pull a Ross Perot and run as an independent. Perot's 19+% was nothing to sneeze at and Obama/Romney is much more divisive than Clinton/Bush I.

One Ton Lady's picture

Ron Paul did a handoff to his son Rand. That is why Rand is bowing low and kissing the feet of the his jewish masters. Ron knows what time it is and he knows who pulls the strings. We talk about shadow banking around here but the fact is we also have a shadow government and the Presidency is just a token and a puppet on a string for the men with black hats and pigtails sitting in the dark rooms of power in this world. My advice to you all, is to learn to be good slaves and maybe you can achieve righteous gentile status in the eyes of some jackass Rabbi.

nmewn's picture ignorant_____. Can you say...YouTube?

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.


Its from his 9/12/2012 Rose Garden remarks my three little Obama-bots. He is talking about the YouTube video here isn't he?


Why were members of the September 17 Martyr Brigades given jobs AS SECURITY inside the compound? Is this part of some weird muslim outreach program?

"The question has yet to come up in House hearings, but I think it holds the key to the Obama administration’s betrayal of the American people in “Benghazi-gate.” To an American with common sense not subverted by advanced degrees, the thought of putting Islamic “martyrs” in charge of American “infidels” in Benghazi — which, fun fact, literally means “city of holy warriors” — would trigger the inevitable “heck, no.” And that’s without even knowing what is significant about Feb. 17."


Connect the dots now....who told these "guards" to stand down the night of the attack?

"Witnesses at the scene of the attack on the American Mission in Benghazi have said they saw Mr. Abu Khattala leading the assault, and his personal involvement is the latest link between the attack and his brigade, Ansar al-Sharia, a puritanical militant group that wants to advance Islamic law in Libya. "

Oh noes...its from the NYT ;-)


Gosh Candy, maybe if you got off your ass and did some actual investigative journalism you might not make such a damned fool of yourself shilling and covering for your man on a prime time debate telecast. The compound had been attacked before. Most other countries had pulled their people out because of attacks & threats to them....ours was basically the last one in Benghazi...Candy.

There was no protest outside before the wasn't about a YouTube video as Carney & Rice & Obama said....Candy.


One last thing....Candy....what is your opinion about the separation of church and state?

: She says the day after the incident school officials informed her that Harris had been placed on administrative leave. On Tuesday, she was then informed that the teacher had been terminated from the Chesapeake Public School system all together. Her termination can not be independently confirmed as the messages left with multiple officials with the school system have not been returned. Attempts to contact Harris were also unsuccessful.

The mother said her daughter told her that Harris “prays to Allah in Arabic” around five times a day in front of students and teaches them about Islam and how it is superior to other religions. Bennett claims other parents have confirmed her suspicions after talking with their kids.

One of those parents, Nita Redditt, told TheBlaze that her young son confirmed Bennett’s story. The boy said he was “scared” to go back to school the next day after she found out, she added.

“I think he was intimidated,” Redditt said. “I couldn’t believe what was going on in the classroom in regards to this teacher praying to Allah and having them pray with her.”

Bennett said she wants the Chesapeake Police Department to conduct a full investigation into Harris’s actions. She also wants to know why she wasn’t notified immediately when another parent complained to Butts Road Intermediate School officials about Harris campaigning for Obama in the classroom and bashing Republican GOP nominee Mitt Romney."

paint it red call it hell's picture

nothing beautiful about these two turds

blindman's picture

the debates also function, as has been observed,
to set the boundaries of respectable public
consideration and discourse, that is mind control
of the population, resulting in a population and
intellectual atmosphere of incredible ignorance
and moronitude among the general public, the people
being neutered by their overriding desire to follow
the bouncing ball while the real game is being played elsewhere by the owners of the system and it's contents who need continuous bailouts of greater and greater magnitude to prepare for the systemic destruction at hand; that because the system structure is flawed and is a failed con game designed to leach all value to a few bankers/sters at the expense of the rest of humanity and the environment.
it is the monetary system that is in ruin and
demanding/dictating the violence and suffering.
so lets not talk about it in a public debate,
someone might learn something, oh my no !
end the fed !

DaveyJones's picture

"neutered by their overriding desire to follow
the bouncing ball while the real game is being played elsewhere"

we play pong while they play tour of duty 

Mad Mohel's picture

Why is O intently staring at Mitt's tits?

FeralSerf's picture

Nah, he's staring at his dick.

JustObserving's picture

"The money-ruled American political system has a pretty straight-ahead Wall Street agenda and is designed to eliminate opposition the way dictatorships do, Jill Stein, the US presidential candidate for the Green Party, shared with RT.

She believes that both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have essentially the same agenda of serving the interests of the richest 1 per cent of American population while the voices of the rest of Americans, who bear most of the burden of the economic downturn, are not heard.

Stein acknowledged that while proven to be ineffective in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the “world police” policy the US has followed since the collapse of the Soviet Union is bankrupting Americans.

RT: You said you are going to be an underdog candidate for underdog voters. Who are these underdog voters?

Jill Stein: It is certainly most of the American public. People are losing their jobs, wages are declining, millions have lost their homes, another million are in the pipeline to lose their homes this year, the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing, public higher education is increasingly out of reach. 

We have 36 million young people, students and recent graduates, who are effectively indentured servants because they don’t have the jobs or wages to repay those unforgiving debts. And the political establishment is not doing anything about it while a very small segment of the American population, the 1 per cent we say, is making out like bandits. So neither party is fixing this."

Widowmaker's picture

Of course it's 100% scripted bullshit, but since when has content relevant to the 99% of people ever been discussed?   What part of the 99% is represented on either platform of lies? Absolutly none.

The only thing that matters is who's more rich and who is going to perform fellatio on Uncle Sam for incompetent USA Inc.  Insert a camera and two sock-puppets anywhere.

Politics is a fucking circus of mirrors, perverted false hope and tragedy.   "YES WE CAN!" (guarantee fascist high finance fucks every American sole in the stink)

Expect Romney to win based on an obscure technicality in some opaque process in the lawless freeforall racket known as Florida -- Just like shameless-W.

DavidC's picture

I've commented elsewhere saying that I wouldn't be surprised if Obama doesn't WANT to win.

That way, in four years' time, after the shit has hit the fan, the Democrats can say 'Look, we left the stock market back at its highs and see what the Republicans have done, the S&P is back at 666'.

Just as Tony B. Liar (sic) handed the poisoned chalice to Gordon Brown just in time for the crisis to hit.


DaveyJones's picture

good point, and maybe, like Tony, he'll go work for his masters after the disasters