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Debatable

I can’t remember an election campaign that had so many debates. It used to be that the League of Women Voters would sponsor a debate here and there, and that was that. The League pulled out in 1988 proclaiming a fraud perpetrated on the American people.

Back in 2000, I represented the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is the non-partisan organization established to, well, organize the Presidential debates. We helped the CPD announce the program that gave the public its first say in the questions (at the moderators’ discretion).

Our main assignment, however, was to reinforce the sanctity of the debates, and the formula used to open the door for participation. At the time, the CPD had long-standing rules about the minimum threshold a candidate needed to meet to qualify to compete. We were charged with communicating these rules through the court of pubic opinion, lest some fringe candidate starts to rumble about disenfranchisement.

Today quirky candidate Dennis Kucinich made a last ditch legal effort to force tonight’s nationally-broadcast National Broadcast Company’s Democratic debates to include him on the dais. Now this is certainly a novel media strategy for a laggard (yet colorful) candidate to finally break into the national news budget.

As for the rules for inclusion, the CPD had its reasons, and NBC has its. Yet, for some reason, NBC’s rules, which changed very recently to the PR detriment of Mr. Kucinich, may be driven more by the network’s need for ratings versus the CPD’s democratic principles. Well who can blame them after the Golden Globe ratings meltdown?

BTW — Did anyone pick up on Sen. Clinton’s calling out the obscene severance package paid out to the architect of the sub-prime mess — a client of the firm her top PR consigliere (still) runs?