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Why all those debate rules?

President Bush checks his watch during the debate on Oct. 15, 1992. (AP Photo)

Dave Ross and David Boze will host a conversation after the presidential debate live on KIRO Radio from 7:30 to 8:00pm. Listen to the gubernatorial debate from 8:00 to 9:00pm and then tune in to David Boze for analysis.

The campaigns are in a tizzy because Candy Crowley, moderator of tonight’s Town Hall debate, says she will not be merely a fly on the wall; she plans to focus the questions if necessary. It’s in defiance of the carefully negotiated rules, which state:

The audience member “must ask their question as originally submitted” and, if the questioner goes off script, “the moderator will cut off the questioner” and, if necessary, the microphone.

In addition, “The moderator will not ask follow up questions or otherwise intervene…”

Why do you need strict rules like that? Because 20 years ago, almost to the day, at a Town Hall like the one tonight, a young woman asked this question:

“How has the national debate personally affected your lives?”

And she didn’t like President George H. W. Bush’s initial answer.

“It has a lot to do with interest rates,” he said.

“How has it affected you personally?” she asked again.

See? This is why you need to cut off the mic and why you don’t want the moderator to get involved, especially since she might mention the “R” word.

“I think she means more the recession, the economic problems the country faces today rather than the deficit.”

Whether you’re a rich guy who doesn’t want to look out of touch or a president who doesn’t want to remind people about the economy, there’s nothing scarier than an ordinary American insisting on an answer.

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