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Debate vs. Town Hall Meeting

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published June 28, 2008

During his brief campaign visit to the Mahoning Valley Friday, U.S. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, was asked if he would be willing to debate his Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, in Youngstown. After first saying that he is willing to meet Obama any where at any time, the Arizona senator made it clear, however, that he prefers a Town Hall-type setting where ordinary people get to interact with the candidates.

That's a cop out. A formal structured debate in which a panel of journalists asks questions and the candidates are given a limited amount of time to answer is the ultimate test of the ability of the next president of the United States to not only think on his feet, but to demonstrate his knowledge of the issues of the day.

Town Hall meetings have a touchy-feely sense to them that does not reflect reality. Indeed, if both candidates appeared together, each would have his supporters in the audience. It would become a campaign rally.

If, as McCain says, Ohio is the battleground, then he should be willing to meet Obama in a verbal slugfest in the Mahoning Valley.

There is no doubt Obama would have the advantage of eloquence, but McCain, who is running on his experience compared to his Demoratic opponent's, would be able to display his knowledge.

McCain said he inends to return to the Valley several times; Obama can be expected to make the region his priority.

A televised debate on WFMJ-TV Channel 21, the No. 1 station in the Valley, co-sponsored by The Vindicator, the largest newspaper in the region, is a must.

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