The second presidential debate was town-hall style, and that is supposed to mean that the candidates have a chance to get out of the media bubble and face real voters and their questions. But once again, Sunday night's debate was mostly about the candidates' talking points, insults, and more than a few squabbles with the all-too-intrusive moderators.
Only a handful of actual voters in the room got to ask questions in the first place. That was mostly because the moderators, CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz, insisted on asking a series of follow-up questions time after time. It was as if clarifying answers for their edification was more important than getting to more face-to-face questions from the hand-picked audience. It wasn't.
Nowhere was this more evident than when Cooper dragged out and multiplied the questions about the just-leaked "Access Hollywood" tapes of Donald Trump making lurid comments about women. Trump tried to apologize and move on three separate times. But after Cooper chose to read the first online question that also asked about the leaked tape, Trump finally launched into his attacks on Bill Clinton's sexual assault case history and Hillary Clinton's connection to his defense in those cases. That essentially ruined the first 30 minutes of the debate, as far as getting the real people in the room a chance to set the tone.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are to blame here too, as neither tried very much to interact more with their voter questioners. But the moderators inserting themselves at the expense of the voters in the room was a scenario that repeated itself throughout the debate. Perhaps it's because the moderators are both highly-paid on-air "personalities" who are simply not wired to sit back and let the audience do the work.
Perhaps the best way to fix that is to get non-celebrities to moderate, or do as many others have suggested recently and eliminate moderators altogether.
Why not? No moderator would certainly be better than what happened in this second debate.