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DN!: No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates

from Democracy Now!

The Obama and McCain campaigns jointly negotiated a detailed secret contract dictating the terms of all the 2008 debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates. We speak to Open Debates founder and executive director George Farah.

GEORGE FARAH: . . . And, of course, Amy, you’re not going to see any third party voices in tonight’s debate. The Republican, Democratic parties, who exert near absolute control over these public forums, have determined and made sure that no third party voices are ever seen on the debate stage and can challenge their dominance of our political system.

GEORGE FARAH: We used to have a fantastic, genuinely nonpartisan presidential debate sponsor: the League of Women Voters. From 1976 until 1984, the League of Women Voters hosted our most important

public forums, and they made sure the debates served the public interest rather than the interest of any political party. And they had the guts to stand up to the two major parties.

In 1980, for example, former Republican Congressman John Anderson ran as an Independent for the president of the United States. President Jimmy Carter adamantly refused to debate him, but the League said, “You know what, Mr. President? Too bad.” And they hosted a presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and John Anderson that was watched by over 40 million people.

Fast-forward four years later, the Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan campaigns actually vetoed sixty-eight of the moderators that the League of Women Voters had proposed for the three debates. What did the League do? They issued a scathing public press release castigating the candidates for abusing the process, and the Reagan and Mondale campaigns were forced to accept aggressive moderators.

Again, four years later, the League of Women Voters were refusing to implement any contract that was negotiated by the George Bush and Dukakis campaigns. They had negotiated the first secret contract, a twelve-page memoranda of understanding, that dictated who would participate and how the format would be structured. The League said, “This is an outrage!”


AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ralph Nader. And finally, this is Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney talking about the bailout.

    CYNTHIA McKINNEY: First of all, we need a moratorium on foreclosures. Secondly, we need to renegotiate all adjustable-rate mortgages into thirty- or forty-year loans. We also need to make sure that we redefine credit so that credit can work for small business owners and individuals and not against them. We also need accountability in the system—openness, transparency and accountability.

AMY GOODMAN: George Farah, it sounds like it would be a very different debate about the most important issues of the day, if these third party candidates were included.

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