Presidential Debates in American elections have assumed an importance over the years that makes them a key part of any campaign. Famous moments like Lyold Bentsen's I knew Jack Kennedy, you're no Jack Kennedy quip in the Vice Presidential Debate of 1988 or Ronald Reagan's "There you go again" in the Presidential Debate of 1980 have become part of American history. Not to mention of course the most famous debate of the lot- between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960 which supposedly won a tight election for JFK by showing him at his youthful best as opposed to what seemed to be a tired Vice President.
Its fascinating therefore to find this set of interviews from PBS with all the participants they could find in debates going back to 1976. There are lots of interesting moments, both Ronald Reagan and Dan Quayle thought they were over prepared for the debates. John Anderson, Admiral James Stockdale and Dan Quayle reflect on the difficulty of the debate format in accomodating a third party candidate. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is how some politicians, notably George Bush, recoil from the whole idea of a debate, Bush described the debates he was involved in thus
Its show business, Jim, its not really debating or getting into detail on issues or what your experience has been. Too much prompting, too much artificiality, and not really debates. They're rehearsed appearances.
It may be show business, but its extremely important show business, and very interesting to hear about it from the candidates themselves.