After watching three moderators either channel an empty chair, get steamrolled, or both, I've decided to throw my hat in the ring to moderate one of the 2016 debates since I figure I cannot possibly do worse. Today I'm sitting down for lunch with one of the decision makers in that process, Maude R. Aytor.
Maude: So, you'd like to moderate of the debates in 2016. Tell me why.
Grape: Well, so far all the debates have gotten totally out of control of the moderator. I think I could do a better job enforcing the rules and keeping things fair.
Maude: How so?
Grape: Well, in television we are very much in tune with time limits. If a package cannot run one second longer than a minute-thirty, it doesn't. The six o'clock news doesn't start at five minutes after six. The first thing I would do is strictly enforce time limits for the candidates.
Maude: Our rules state each candidate will get two minutes for a response, With that in mind, how much time would you give each candidate?
Grape: This a trick question?
Grape: Then I would give each candidate two minutes.
Maude: (shakes head in disgust) Oh, I can see we're gonna have a problem here.
Grape: What's the correct answer?
Maude: There is no correct answer. The two minute limit is bogus. Nobody enforces it, and the candidates don't pay attention to it.
Grape: So what's the point of the rule?
Maude: It's just there to make the general public think we're fair. Now, moving on. Who are you going to vote for in November?
Grape: I'm not telling you that.
Maude: Why not?
Grape: Because as a journalist I'm supposed to remain objective and not reveal any personal opinions.
Maude: Uh-huh. (Shakes her head and writes some notes on a pad.)
At this point a waitress arrives to take our order.
Waitress: Hello, my name is Mindy and I'll be taking your order today. Our lunch specials are grilled salmon with a creamy dill sauce, pasta primavera--
Maude: I'll need a list of any politicians who attended your wedding.
The waitress glares at Maud.
Grape: Uh, she's still talking.
Maude: Oh, interrupting is no big deal and is encouraged. I'm just preparing you for the debate if you're selected.
Grape: (to waitress) Give us two minutes.
Maude: Or five. Or ten. Whatever! Time doesn't matter! Meanwhile, politicians at your wedding?
Grape: None. Thank God. My wedding was not a photo op. Except for the bride.
Maude: (Writes more notes down on her pad.) Give me a few examples of your best "gotcha" questions you've posed to politicians.
Grape: I don't believe in using gotcha questions.
Maude: So how in the world do you make politicians look stupid?
Grape: They do that quite well on their own without any help from me.
Maude: I see. Your opinion on Big Bird?
Maude: So, bottom line... you're not biased, have no personal friends who are politicians, and don't use gotcha questions. You have opinions but won't tell me any of them. And I take it from your tone that you apparently don't watch Sesame Street. Have I left anything out?
Grape: Well, I think the moderator of any debate has to be in control and run it with a strong hand. You can't let it become a free-for-all with no rules.
Maude: (Writes more notes and closes her notebook.) Well, thank you for your time, but I'm afraid this isn't going to work out.
Grape: Did I say something wrong?
Maude: Look, I'm sure you have good intentions, but we have certain... qualifications... we require.
Grape: And those would be?
Maude: Oh, it's a secret. But I'm sure you can figure it out. (Big smile.)
Grape: Thanks. That was a gotcha question, by the way.