Imitate the legal system.
Maybe the Commission on Presidential Debates has already thought about this and ruled it out, but I've never heard that they've done so.
Apparently, there will not be any more Presidential debates before the November 3 election. (Duck Duck Go it if you need to.)
So I know it's too late for 2020, but there's always 2024.
After the first, and apparently only, Trump-Biden debate, there were accusations of bias made by supporters of President Trump against moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. There were also criticisms about the number of interruptions by both candidates, but especially the President, and generally rude behavior.
Here is my award-winning idea to Make Debates Great Again:
Run the debates the way you would run a trial! Each candidate can choose one "advocate" from the media. The advocate can be as biased as the candidate wants. None of this "objectivity" malarkey.
Direct examination: The "advocate" will a throw a nerf ball of a question to "his or her" candidate about a designated political issue. The candidate will be expected to bat that nerf ball out of the park.
TIME: Two minutes.
Cross-examination. Then turn the questioning over to the other candidate's advocate for cross-examination. The adversary will be required to stick to the subject matter and avoid name-calling, but apart from that, just about anything would go. The purpose of cross-examination would be to point out the weaknesses in the candidate's position on the designated issue, as well as the candidate's hypocrisy as it relates to that issue.
TIME: Three minutes.
Redirect: Then let the candidate's advocate "redirect."
TIME: One minute.
Repeat this process with all of the issues agreed on by the candidates: Supreme Court nominations, climate change, the economy, social issues, etc.
TOTAL TIME: 90 minutes.
The moderator: The candidates agree in advance on a moderator as they do now, but the moderator's role is limited to keeping time, ruling on "objections," making sure that the "advocates" don't get off topic, and keeping things relatively civil. That way, if the moderator has his or her own political leanings, it won't matter much.
Courtroom, uh, I mean podium decorum: Candidates may bow to each other from an appropriate social distance before the debate begins. Once the debate starts, they are not allowed to speak directly to each other. Any candidate who interrupts the other candidate or an advocate will be admonished once. If there is another interruption, the candidate will be found to be in contempt and will have to exit the stage for a two-minute time out.
On direct examination, leading questions are not allowed. On cross-examination, leading questions are encouraged, and pointing out the hypocrisy of a candidate is fair game, as is pointing out any personal conduct that may render the candidate unfit for office. Name-calling or use of language stronger than "hell" or "damn" is prohibited unless used in a quote. Appropriate euphemisms must be used when discussing any topic that involves sex.
If the debate is "virtual," a representative of the adversary has to be in the room with each candidate to ensure no cheating.
A bailiff will be present at all times to ensure that order is maintained.
I tell ya, it can't miss!
Commission on Presidential Debates, you're welcome.
Image Credits: Top image from Adobe Stock. Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots from flickr, Creative Commons license, by Randy Heinitz.