Require both candidates to personally endorse the ground rules — on camera — at the start of the debate. It is not enough that Republican and Democratic presidential staff have agreed to the ground rules off-camera. The debate should not start until both candidates have sworn to honor some agreed-upon rules. Breaking the rules is bad enough; breaking rules you have pledged to follow is even worse. Before the first question is asked, the ground rules must be affirmed by both candidates. Honoring the rules is practicing “law and order” when it counts.
Give control of the microphones to the moderators. Imagine a football or basketball game if the referees’ whistle was ignored. The game would fall apart. Similarly, if a candidate can violate time limits repeatedly and without consequence and interrupt his adversary with impunity, chaos is inevitable. The rule-breaker is rewarded, and the rule-follower suffers. Since a candidate’s word is no longer enough, the only way to ensure that time agreements are honored is for the moderator to be empowered to enforce them.
Include professionally trained moderators, not just television personalities. Referees and umpires in high-stakes sports events are trained professionals. Moderators of presidential debates should be as well.