7 Ways to Fix the Debate Time Issue

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I originally posted this on October 8, 2008. Can’t believe it’s been 4 years! But with the debate tonight, thought it would be fun to revisit it and update it with a few tweaks.

If you remember the presidential debates from 4 years ago, you know that the most uncomfortable moments – other than McCain calling Obama “that one” – was Tom Brokaw’s increasing annoyance over the blatant disregard for time.

Both camps had agreed to the 2-minute and 1-minute limits on responses and rebuttals, and both candidates blew through them on every answer like a tired motorist running a stop sign at 2:00am.

Let’s face it, it’s ridiculous to expect politicians to be short winded. (1-minute rebuttals?? really??) It’s also ridiculous to expect them to play by the rules.

That’s why I think the rules need to change. Forget the green-yellow-red traffic light on the floor. We need a better system of keeping time and enforcing clock abuse. Here are my proposed solutions

7 Ways to Fix the Debate Time Issue

1. The Chess Clock: Each candidate gets 45 minutes of mic time for the entire debate. Once they are satisfied with their response to a question they slam their button and their opponent’s clock begins.

Manage your time right and you may end up with the last ten minutes of talk time while your opponent has to look on in silence.

2. The Mic Drop: As soon as their time is up on each question, cut off power to their mic. I guarantee that after being cut off mid-sentence a few times they will learn how to finish their thoughts on time.

3. The Orchestra: You know how award shows will cut off long-winded acceptance speeches with music that gets louder and louder every second? Let’s do the same thing at debates. Let’s hire an orchestra to sit next to the stage and start playing in ever-increasing volume as the candidates blow through their time limits.

And if an orchestra’s not brash enough we can find a pop star with a new album out who’s willing to help. What if every time the candidate exceeds his time Carly Rae Jepsen breaks into a song from her new album. Done and done.

4. The Dueling Mics: With this option, as soon as a candidate’s time limit is reached his opponent is allowed to talk over him into his own mic.

The possibilities are endless. The opponent could chime in with little quips and insults every few seconds (“not true”…”he’s lying”…”you suck”…) or he could just pull a Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber and make the most annoying noise in the world until his opponent shuts up.

5. The Donation Obligation: Here’s the idea: for every second over the allotted time for each question that the candidate speaks, he has to give $500 out of his own pocket to the political party of his opponent.

In 2008, they blabbed beyond the legal limit for an extra 30 seconds (at least) every time. Under this plan, those 30 seconds Barack went over his allotted time would mean a $15,000 donation to the Republican National Committee.

Sure Romney is filthy rich, but would he want that money going to the DNC? We’d find out.

6. The Mini Life-Sucking Machine: Remember the Life-Sucking Machine in the Pit of Despair from The Princess Bride? We need to attach a mini belt version of that to each candidate.

As soon as their time allotment has expired, they start to feel the pain from the machine as it inflicts damage to the small of their backs. The longer the candidate wants to exceed his time, the more pain he feels as his life is sucked out of him. We’ll see who has a high pain threshold and who really cares about espousing the finer details of their budget plan.

7. The Strip Tease: E ach candidate gets the same question, and the one that goes longer on their response has to remove an article of clothing.

Want to keep those pants on? Betther think twice about starting off your answer with a 3-minute rebuttal to your opponent’s comment from 15 minutes ago.

(For the sake of all of our eyes, I pray this idea is never put into practice. None of us want our ears to know Romney’s answer to the boxers or briefs question, never mind our eyes.)

Got an idea of your own to fix this issue?

Planning on watching tonight?

Let us know in the comments.


  • ThatGuyKC

    Oct 03, 2012


    Brilliant! I think #5 is the best. I would pay big money to see this or SNL buy rights to the idea. :)

  • Nate Eaton

    Oct 04, 2012


    Number Two would make things much more interesting because, honestly, what politician wants to get cut off mid-sentence? Seeing the reactions to THAT would be worth watching.

    Number One might give us an idea of the candidate’s budget skills as well (“oh, you blew all of your time on the first thing that came your way and had nothing to work with the rest of the time, short of going into debt? Interesting approach.”)

  • Jon Stolpe

    Oct 05, 2012


    How about a trap door under each candidate? If they go over their allotted time, the door opens and they fall into the pit of alligators below.

  • ChadJ (randomlychad)

    Oct 08, 2012


    As Jon said, a trap door would be good; to it I would add Tesla’s teleportation device from Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Every time a candidate goes over, they can watch Hugh Jackman off their doppleganger.

  • My Top 14 Choices to Moderate the Next Presidential Debate

    Oct 09, 2012


    […] man. I’d like to think he’d bring some of his Amish expertise into the mix, as well as his refreshing ideas for debate […]

  • Monday Soup | BryanAllain.com

    Oct 15, 2012


    […] + Another presidential debate tomorrow, another chance to remind you that they need to fix the issue of the candidate’s going over their allotted times. In case you missed it, here were my suggestions: 7 Ways to Fix the Debate Time Issue. […]

  • Bob Arrell

    Oct 16, 2012


    Bryan, I like #6 and The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies. I would like to propose an 8th option if I may. They should both be fitted with shock collars and an invisible fence installed so the candidates cannot encroach the others personal space. As an added feature, at the 00:01:30 mark the collar could start a low pulse and increase in intensity to full power at the 00:02:00 time limit. Or it could just be a complete surprise. They both have merit and entertainment value. There could also be a burst for misrepresentation of the other candidates position. I’ll stop now.

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