"Parties Consider Sponsoring Presidential Debates"

Washington Post, May 16, 1984; Political Notes  

In the spring of 1984, the Republican and Democratic parties toyed with the idea of sponsoring the presidential debates for that election year. In 1976 and 1980, the League of Women Voters sponsored the presidential debates and was planning to do so again in 1984. The question of who was to sponsor presidential was an issue from 1960 on. One of the issues was that how many candidates could participate. By 1984, the FCC had amended the "equal-time" rule to make it easier for the networks to sponsor the debates. In response, the League of Women Voters argued that "the parties inevitably would 'put the interests of their particular candidates first.'"


"How to Lose a Debate"

Washington Post, Oct. 7, 1984: D8; By Bob Dole  

As the vice-presidential candidate in 1976, Senator Robert Dole, debated candidate Walter Mondale, who was Jimmy Carter's running mate. This was the first vice-presidential debate. Through the campaign season, Dole had earned a reputation as President Gerald Ford's "hatchet man," meaning that Dole job was to agressively attack the Carter-Mondale record and platform. The role of "hatchet man," however, did not translate well to television, and Dole was widely believed to have lost the debate. In his short, self-effacing article, Dole provided a "Top Ten" list on what not to do in a debate. Two suggestions: "Don't perspire. You might not believe it, but millions of people will be watching your upper lip;" and "Don't use a hatchet. Those things are kind of clumsy and cause self-inflicted wounds."


"Betrayed by a TV Camera"

Washington Post, Oct. 11, 1984; A2; Mary McGrory  

One of the issues in the 1984 presidential campaign was age. In 1984, Reagan was 73 years old. The first debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale was seen as a victory for Mondale primarily Reagan appeared to be mentally disoriented. The debate raised questions about Reagan mental fitness given his age. Physically, Reagan was very fit, characterized by his "horseback riding and wood chopping, the rosy cheeks, the clear eyes." But McGrory noted, "Voters are slow to change their minds. Reagan's incoherence and malaise did not topple the two pillars of his strength: incumbency and a recovering economy. Voters' faith may be shaken but not, so far, their fondness." Thus, the age issue set the stage for the second presidential debate.


"The Art of Vagueness"

Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1984; K2; By Colman McCarthy  

"What did we get out of the two presidential debates," asks Columnist McCarthy. In most of this column, McCarthy criticizes Ronald Reagan's ability to evade clearly answering questions. He also criticized reporters for asking soft questions.


"It didn't Matter: Debate Claptrap"

Washington Post, Oct. 31, 1984; A17