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A Broder-mccain Fallacy

I still think Obama's decision not to agree to town-hall meetings with McCain wasn't so clear-cut. But I'm not so sure I buy McCain's notion, echoed today by David Broder, that putting two candidates on a stage together "improve[s] the relationship." Hillary and Obama, for instance, had some friendly debates. But one of the nastiest moments of the entire Democratic primary was that January debate in South Carolina, when Hillary bashed Obama for his ties to a "slum lord" and he went after her past work for Wal-Mart. It was visceral and crude stuff. Likewise, McCain's loathing for Mitt Romney never seemed diminished by their presence on debate stages together. Indeed, in their final meeting at the Reagan Library--the one that largely hinged on Iraq "timelines"--Mitt and McCain seemed ready for a fistfight. To say that debates can get nasty may be stating the obvious but Broder doesn't acknowledge it. (And yes it's possible that a town-fall format with voters asking random questions might be more civil; but many traditional "debates" involve questions from voters and I'm not sure how McCain's proposed format would change the fundamental dynamics.)

--Michael Crowley