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To Debate or Not to Debate?


Allen West


October 3, 2023

It goes without saying that last week’s GOP presidential primary debate was a bit of a debacle. I want to provide my assessment of the debate as one who has been on stage as a candidate and moderator.

The viewership numbers objectively reflect this, with ratings going from 13.5 million in the first debate, to 9.5 million for the second. There were times when it was rather difficult to endure the often immature and even imbecilic behavior, and questions. I do have to ask why South Carolina Senator Tim Scott was not wearing an American flag lapel pin? The ol’ Colonel notices these things . . . and inquiries about drapery? What type of fella asks anyone about drapery? The Donald Duck comment from former Governor Christie? The final question from Fox News’s Dana Perino about writing down who would you “vote” off the island? Those were just some of the evening’s cringeworthy moments.

So much so, that former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, has openly asserted that the RNC should cancel all further debates. The next debate is to happen in early November.

So, we ask: to debate, or not to debate?

Let’s be honest, if the format continues to be as it was last week, yes, cancel all further debates. However, if the RNC wants to maintain any credibility, they will shrink the stage and reformat future debates.

First of all, let’s have some discipline in the process and conduct of the event. The only person who should have their microphone “on” is the person being recognized to speak by the moderators. One person gets the initial response to the question, and another gets an opportunity to follow up. Yes, if you are mentioned in a response, you get a certain amount of time to make a response. However, once the bell sounds, the candidate’s microphone is cut off. I would add a red light/green light feature on their respective podiums so that the viewing audience knows who has an active microphone. Also, when asked a question, if the candidate attempts to redirect and not answer the proposed question, they are warned to respond to the question. If they do not, then their microphone is cut off and they lose their opportunity to speak.

Next, I think we all want to hear more hard discussions on the issues, not repeated, trained seal talking points, hyperbole, and rhetoric. I think what is needed is a serious exegesis of the US Constitution. I want to hear who understands our rule of law, how it is being violated, and what they would do to restore constitutional governance. Perhaps we need to stop having TV media personalities, and maybe subject matter experts. I must admit, who would not want to see someone like Mark Levin moderate a debate on constitutionality? Or gather a panel of retired general officers to discuss issues on national security? Maybe a panel of Constitutional sheriffs to talk about domestic security and the issues with violent crime in America? I think y’all are getting my point. Stop with the media sensationalism and let’s have a serious talk about functionality.

Another approach, especially as the field is whittled down, would be to bring a candidate out one at a time and ask them the hard questions. Make this into a national job interview for all of America to see. The other candidates are held backstage and are unaware of the questions being asked, some of them tailored for the respective candidate. That would certainly preclude the waste of time hearing about drapery and other irrelevant attempts by candidates to score cheap shot points. Let the American people make the objective decision. That would preclude someone like former President Trump refusing to take part. Again, the same rules apply: answer the questions, cut off rambling, but have true moderators who are not interested in injecting themselves into the forum.

Lastly, I do not believe the debates should be canceled. I do offer that there needs to be a course and direction change. This should not be about “panem et circenses.” If you are unfamiliar with the reference, read and educate yourself. This is the problem in our Constitutional Republic; too many wish to be entertained, and not edified and enlightened, and there is a media that foments that disturbing desire. I long for a Huntley/Brinkley, David Chancellor, Tim Russert, Bill O’Reilly, or Greta Van Susteren type who just wanted to uncover the truth. Today we view them as boring, but these were journalists and commentators who wanted the best for America.

So, yes, let’s debate but have a real debate. Let us have an open exchange of ideas and sharing of thoughts, perspectives, and insights on the issues facing America. Let’s see this as an opportunity to inform, educate, and activate Americans. Let’s talk about fundamental principles, the supremacy clause, constitutional responsibilities on immigration, the Tenth Amendment, individual rights vs. collectivism, populism vs.constitutional conservatism, and the role of government. I wonder how many running for GOP nomination have ever read Frederic Bastiat’s essay “The Law,” Alexis de Toqueville’s”Democracy in America, John Locke’s “Second Treatise on Government,” Carl Von Clausewitz’s “On War,” Booker T. Washington’s “Up from Slavery,” Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom,”or “The Patriot” by Gary Hart. Heck, how many Americans have? How many have read the entire Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution? After all, September is Constitution Month. Did you know that? Doggone, we all know when sexual deviant behavior month is.

I could create a bevy of questions from those readings for a debate. Yes, perhaps boring, but perhaps if we were deeply confronted with these principles and ideals, our Republic would not be in this morass.

Ya can’t Live Free if you do not understand the premise of living free.

Steadfast and Loyal.

This article first appeared at



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