No more survival of the briefest: Give us a real debate

The Republican presidential candidates, their sinews stiffened and their blood summoned up, may rightly dread Wednesday’s version of what are inexplicably called debates. The candidates have some explaining to do, particularly regarding two subjects that deserve more searching examination than is possible in 60-second bursts on a stage cluttered with eight contestants. But perhaps certain candidates can be compelled to expand upon, and improve upon, what they have been saying about foreign policy and about the role of the judiciary in American democracy. …

Because the very idea of an eight-sided debate is absurd, and because such a televised event is survival of the briefest, the format discourages the drawing of sensible distinctions. But presidential duties demand this, and it would be helpful if the mad proliferation of debates at least tested this aptitude regarding issues as large as war and the judiciary.