Nation Writer: Ralph Nader Should Moderate Presidential Debates For Both Parties

August 7th, 2015 8:45 PM

If you watched Thursday night’s Republican debate and wished that a onetime Green Party presidential nominee had been asking the questions, then you agree with The Nation’s Washington correspondent, John Nichols, who thinks Ralph Nader would be the “ideal prospect” to moderate presidential debates for both major parties.

Spoilsports might argue that Nader’s fifty-year record of lefty activism would make him a problematic choice to host a GOP debate. Nichols sidesteps that issue by pointing out that Nader is “neither a Republican nor a Democrat” and, besides, “he knows every issue, and he is on to every dodge that every contender might attempt when it comes to addressing the issues.”

Nichols’s piece, headlined “For a More Substantive Republican Debate, Ask Tougher Questions,” was posted fewer than twelve hours before Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace, and Bret Baier started questioning the candidates in a manner that both conservatives and liberals found plenty tough.

From Nichols’s post (bolding added):

Republican [and] Democratic presidential [debates] are generally lame.

There are two reasons for this.

First, the candidates tend to stick to talking points…

Second, and far more problematic, is the questioning…[Moderators] don’t want to be accused of being too controlling or too directive, and so they err on the side of being too collaborative — tossing candidates questions that invite boiler-plate answers…

I always believed that Republican debates should be moderated by Gore Vidal and that Democratic debates should be moderated by William F. Buckley

In the absence of Buckley and Vidal, I have been casting about for a moderator prospect and it seems to me that there is an ideal prospect: Ralph Nader.

Neither a Republican nor a Democrat, Nader could moderate the debates of both parties. He knows every issue, and he is on to every dodge that every contender might attempt when it comes to addressing the issues. His follow-up questions would be epic. He can be gracious and amusing, but Nader takes no prisoners when it comes to demanding that questions be answered…

…[T]oo many prominent politicians avoid his questions because they know that the questions go to the heart of the matter. Nader’s latest book…reproduces [his] communications to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on issues ranging from corporate power to special-interest domination of elections and governance to trade policy to the minimum wage to public health concerns to torture to the Iraq War…

…Unfortunately, [the letters] were not answered. And, as such, they offer a jarring history of the unaddressed issues of our time…

Presidents can avoid the discourse. But candidates for the presidency must, at least to some extent, engage in it. And that would be the genius of Ralph Nader as a debate moderator. He would make the engagement matter.

In a Friday tweet, Nichols floated an even more improbable pick than Nader: “Moderator for next GOP debate? I am thinking Rosie O'Donnell.”