Why were these debates held in deathly silence?

Of course, all the partisanship was on one side at a Republican gathering. But if the Boca debate had such partisans from both sides, what would be wrong with a little noise? In Cincinnati, the GOP crowd was smart and up on the issues and ready to hold Obama to account. Certainly a bunch of outspoken Democrats would do the same for Romney. Would it kill the Commission on Presidential Debates to give people like that a collective voice in a future debate? Wouldn’t a session with a live — and lively — audience be an improvement over the awkward and stilted town-hall format?…

Not everything from a partisan audience would be uplifting and enlightening. Among some Republicans, for example, it’s clear that after four years, nearly everything Barack Obama says or does just grates on the ear. When the president, as is his habit, referred to “Poh-kee-stahn” Monday night, someone yelled out an all-American-style “Pakistan!” and everyone laughed. And when moderator Bob Schieffer asked Obama, “What do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?” someone else bellowed, “ME!” as the camera focused on the president.

At a wide-open debate, there would undoubtedly be some of that on both sides. But there would also be a certain amount of energy, unpredictability, and vitality that might reveal more of the candidates than the current practice. This year, as in past campaigns, there’s more than a little unhappiness with the debates’ style, formats, and moderators. Why not try something different?

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