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Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future Hardcover – April 1, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0226530413 ISBN-10: 0226530418 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226530418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226530413
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former FCC chairman Minow and Northwestern journalism professor LaMay (Abandoned in the Wasteland) continue their collaboration with a book that is part history, part memoir, part advocacy and part apologia. Minow, an early organizer of the televised debates and the current vice chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, is the debates' greatest champion and most clear-eyed critic. Minow and LaMay readily admit to the debates' imperfections: the frequent omissions of third-party candidates and inquiries from the public. The authors suggest that in order for the debates to be more useful for voters, candidates must be more spontaneous, present fewer canned speeches and be open to answering questions from the audience (as in the YouTube debates) and from each other. Furthermore, the authors urge radio and television broadcasters to provide affordable public-service time to presidential candidates and that information be made available on the Internet to supplement comments during the debates. Although the book suffers from its lack of chronology and needless reiteration, Minow's perspectives are peerless, and the timeliness and importance of the topic make for worthwhile reading.
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“Newton Minow is the father of televised presidential debates, the most important new political institution of the last half century. From his memo to Adlai Stevenson first suggesting the idea in 1955 to his sensible proposals for new formats in 2008, he has stood at the center of the ‘debate over debates,’ casting a cool eye on the medium and on the democratic process he has done so much to shape. This book tells that compelling story with wit, verve, and penetrating insight.”

(Jonathan Alter)

“Newton Minow and Craig LaMay provide a fascinating look at the development of televised presidential debates and provide insightful suggestions on how to improve them. They’re the perfect persons to guide our thinking on this important topic, plus they’ve made the issues fun to read about.”

(Walter Isaacson)

“There may be no one alive who cares more about America’s democracy than Newton Minow, who was there at the creation of the modern political debate. The riveting first-person stories he and Craig LaMay tell of debates in one election after another take us to the heart of American political life and argue for a continued central role for debates in our electoral process. Their book is must reading for anyone who wants to understand how to ensure that comes about.”

(Judy Woodruff)

"No one is more qualified to write [this book] than Minow, who as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under John F. Kennedy, called TV a 'vast wasteland' and has been a key part of the presidential debates for decades. . . . He tells an important story well and briefly."
(Library Journal)

"Minow, an early organizer of the televised debates and the current vice chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, is [their] greatest champion and most clear-eyed critic. . . . [His] perspectives are peerless, and the timeliness and importance of the topic make for worthwhile reading."
(Publishers Weekly)

“An utterly fascinating and timely glimpse into how the presidential debates were created, how they have evolved through the years, and the indispensable role they continue to play in our democracy. Minow and LaMay’s book is a gem.”

(Walter Cronkite)

"An insightful look at America's televised presidential debates. The authors present the story in a book destined to become a classic. . . . A delight to read; rarely does one encounter scholarly exploration expressed in prose lucid, enlightened, and laced with wit."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sallie on August 26, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I know I'm biased, since I'm a family member, but Newton Minow's book really does take the reader inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy Nixon to the present day. Minow has been on the Presidential Debates Commission and its predecessors and shows you the good as well as the bad. Must reading for this election season.
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