Here's an idea for the future that will never go anywhere but a thought in my brain.
Forget political debates. They're worthless political theater where the politicians simply try to score points with talking points.
Seriously. Get rid of them.
Instead, sit each candidate down for a two day, six hour interview with three (or however many) journalists and a panel of experts and fact checkers. Then a follow up interview will be held the following week for fact checking.
The three journalists will be tasked with asking the candidates tough questions about their policies, actions, words and deeds. With any luck, the questions will be mostly "gotcha" questions in the sense that the questions catch issues with the candidate's thinking, hardline stance on an issue, or previous actions and deeds.
As the candidate answers, the journalists will be listening for answers to their questions. If none is given, the candidate will be pressed further until either he does answer, or he tells the journalist he's done answering. The journalist will be allowed to comment on why they think the answer was a non-answer and allow the candidate time for a rebuttal if necessary.
The panel of experts in issues and fact checkers will be allowed to weigh in on any statement that the candidate makes about an issue immediately, or during the follow up interview a week later, which will address any lingering issues with the first two sessions.
The reason for my idea is that I believe the media is complicit in the continued pushing of talking points over substantial discussion of issues in this country. Because the media is worried about getting access to politicians, they seldom challenge any of them when questions aren't answered, lies are told, or facts are quoted out of context. In the current debate structure, candidates are still allowed to lean heavy on talking points and there isn't much time for in depth analysis and criticism of a candidates position.
We NEED people that are willing to take apart our political process and expose the lies, hypocrisy, stupid thinking, pandering, and flat out bad policies. A no holds barred process of grilling our candidates is a great place to start.