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‘The obvious starting point is muting microphones’: Seawolf debate coach says of presidential debate

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 5:03 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It was perhaps the most chaotic presidential debate in modern American history.

Pundits had many choice words to described the first presidential debate Tuesday night between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden: ‘Dumpster fire,’ ‘Train wreck,’ ‘A disgrace.’

Either way, it certainly wasn’t pretty and didn’t follow debate standards.

For some insight on what went wrong and how things got out of control so quickly Alaska’s News Source spoke with the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolf Debate Director Steve Johnson.

He watched the debate with his 17-year-old daughter after debate practice last night.

“It was very difficult for me to watch that with her as a father, as a debate professional and as an American citizen,” Johnson said. “It was very difficult for me to watch that.”

Founded in 1972 the UAA debate program has some impressive wins at the national and international level. According to UAA’s website, “the Seawolf Debate program broke three teams at the Worlds Debating Championships, saw three semifinalists and one finalist team at the US Universities Debating Championships, and climbed in the official World Debate Council’s ranking to the 9th most competitive program in the world based on its cumulative success at the last five World Universities Debating Championships.”

All that to say Johnson knows his stuff.

He says no debate he’s ever witnessed has ever come close to what we saw Tuesday evening.

“I’ve watched reality TV before and I’ve seen that sort of lunacies in those kinds of manufactured conflicts that exist,” Johnson said.

Asked how the next debate could be improved Johnson says he would separate the two candidates. He also says there’s a pretty simple way to stop them from shouting over each other.

“I think the obvious starting point is muting microphones. If you give two minutes to a candidate to articulate an answer to a question, then you have to also be able to mute the other candidate so they can’t be interrupted,” Johnson said.

The commission that oversees the general election presidential debates said Wednesday it will be making changes to the format of the remaining two debates.

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