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Coakley dodging all but two debates, a major disappointment

…it is a major disappointment to see Attorney General Martha Coakley, the leading Democrat in all the polls heading into the Dec. 8 primary election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, dodging all but two debates with her fellow Democratic candidates…

[…]

The only televised debate was more than three weeks ago, on Oct. 26. There was one radio debate and two or three forums, but nothing head to head. A second televised debate has now been set for Dec. 1, but for just one hour.

[…]

And in a special election, there is little time for voters to get to know them. That may serve the interests of the Coakley campaign – the less unscripted exposure she has, the less chance there is for a major blunder. Coakley wants to protect her lead, not give face time to her challengers.

But it is not good for voters and it is not healthy for the electoral process. Debates are among the very few public events that cannot be entirely scripted or tightly controlled by the candidates. That is precisely what voters need to see. Just about anybody can look and sound good when reciting from a prepared text, having staff members issue press releases, issuing focus-group-tested position papers or glad-handing supporters at a fundraiser. It is only when they are being challenged by questions they haven’t seen in advance, or are challenging one another, that voters can see how they think on their feet, how they respond to pressure and how well they can defend their views.

Those qualities are important in a senator.

Editorial: Coakley should debate more, for voters’ sake
The Eagle-Tribune, November 18, 2009

It’s not the case that debate skills are irrelevant to the job of a US Senator. As far as I can tell, they tend to be pretty darn important, especially in times of crisis and in the face of obstructionism.

If Martha’s got the goods, she should be willing to showcase them. She should be willing to defend her positions on the issues under fire from her opponents.

I’m not willing to accept common wisdom that her campaign’s needs and priorities are more important that the voter’s interests.

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