US President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will face off for the second of three debates on Tuesday, but viewers awaiting the show-down shouldn't expect anything out of the ordinary: both candidates are contractually obliged to be boring.
Tuesday's debate between the two rivals has been advertised as a town hall meeting with members of the audience asking the contenders hard questions on behalf of the average American. In reality, however, not those in attendance nor even the debate’s moderator will be allowed to press the two presidential candidates on the issues of real importance. Everything from how to handle an unplanned remark from the audience to how each candidate will sit — precisely, to even the exact arrangement of their chairs and water glasses — has already been outlined in a document just unearthed by the press.
According to the 21-page agreement signed by both the Obama and Romney campaigns, no member of the audience will be allowed to ask follow-up questions to the candidates during Tuesday’s event. Microphones will be cut off right after questions are asked, and any opportunities for follow-up questions from the crowd will be disregarded and the audience silenced. What's more is even moderator Candy Crowley has been stripped of her right to press the candidates on the questions, effectively diminishing her role to a mere microphone stand as she attempts to guide an audience adamant but unlikely to get answers about the true intentions of the two men battling for the White House.
Both incumbent President Obama and his Republican Party rival had legal representatives for their respective campaigns sign-off on a 21-page agreement that outlines rules of protocol and performance for all three televised debates that will air before next month’s election. Attorneys standing-in for both the current commander-in-chief and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney signed the document, considered a “Memorandum of Understanding,” only moments before the first of three debates occurred on October 3, and on Monday, a reporter with Time magazine leaked the contract to the Web.
The contract, a binding agreement between the Obama for America and the Romney for President campaigns, outlines to a tee not only exactly how the two candidates are legally required to conduct themselves during the debate, but also outlines what is expected of the moderators during the three arguments.
"The candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates,” one provision reads, with another insisting, "The candidates shall not address each other with proposed pledges.”
Elsewhere, the campaigns agreed that “At no time” would either candidate “move from his designated area behind the respective podium” during the October 3 debate.
For Tuesday’s event, a town-hall style show-down, it has already been established that following questions lobbed by a handful of pre-selected persons in attendance, "the moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate.” And although the questions introduced by the crowd are pre-screened by the event’s host, the campaigns have authorized the Commission on Presidential Debates to “take appropriate steps to cut-off the microphone of any…audience member who attempts to pose any question or statement different than that previously posed to the moderator for review."
The document also includes detailed descriptions of seating arrangements, where each candidate’s entourage will be allowed near the stage and, yes, it does confirm that both the president and his opponent will be allowed to use pen and paper of their own liking.
In other words, while things could heat up before Election Day, don’t think that Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney have attempted to find a way to make things less interesting. Neither the presidential candidates nor the men campaigning as their running mates are allowed to ask direct questions to their opponents during any of the debates, and even those members of the audience selected to participate are forbid from following up with any “extended discussion,” which both the president and his Republican Party rival are barred from encouraging.
The Memorandum of Understanding, although informative to a degree, simply only establishes what was already assumed: both Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney’s campaigns are taking every action imaginable to ensure that any roadblocks are less likely to occur during the debates. And for those hoping for a glimpse into what to expect during this week’s performance, here’s a quick spoiler: both chairs utilized by the candidates on Tuesday have had their backs and footrests pre-approved by the campaign. Exciting, huh?