“When candidates debate each other, they should debate each other. In a real debate, the participants engage, they grapple, they get into each other’s hair (metaphorically, of course). Without that clash of ideas and personalities, there’s no point in getting the two sides together on one stage.
“But in the presidential debates over the years, the rules have bizarrely permitted the candidates to ‘debate’ without actually addressing each other. Some have spent the entire night studiously avoiding eye contact.
“Their escape mechanism is the moderator, the one person on stage whom both candidates must address, in a weirdly triangulated conversation, as they work through the questions the moderator poses. So it becomes those questions, and not the candidates’ ideas or personalities, driving the discussion.
“It feels hollow. It feels forced. There’s a simple fix for this: Make these candidates talk to each other.”