Editors' Pick: Originally published Feb. 3.
If we want to get serious about choosing our next president, we need to move beyond debates.
We've already seen Republican and Democratic presidential candidates debate nearly a dozen times. There are at least six more events scheduled for the month of February. That's essentially one every five days, or in the case of this week, three in a four-day span. And after coming under pressure over a light debate schedule early on, the Dems are pondering adding even more. Why not have a debate every night? Two per night?
It's ridiculous. Enough talk.
We're not getting much new information from the debates -- Donald Trump still wants his wall, Ted Cruz his carpet bombs, and Ben Carson his nap. And a lot of what is fresh is pointless. Sanders was an elementary school basketball champion? Mike Huckabee wants his secret code name to be Duck Hunter? Who cares?
In December, 81-year-old Elvira Montes finished the second annual FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships in 20 minutes and 24.62 seconds. She showed real perseverance, something a president needs when suffering through long negotiations with Congress -- or perhaps beer-drinking-contests with the German delegation. We should ask 68-year-old Hillary Clinton and 74-year-old Bernie Sanders to try to best her beer mile time. It will tell us more about who should be president -- and it beats watching them debate...again.
Let's just cancel all the remaining debates and instead have the candidates face off in other kinds of contests to see what they're really made of, because why not?
The now-defunctPresidential National Fitness Test may invoke horrible memories of gym class, but it has a nice presidential ring to it, doesn't it? We could find out who could do more sit-ups in 60 seconds, reach the farthest past their toes or put in the fastest mile.
We could also use physical contests to force candidates to tip their hands about potential running mates. That would be new information you don't get at debates. How about we bring them in for a three-legged race, where they have to choose a partner? Whoever gets to the finish-line first gets an apple pie and two convention delegates.
They say that American voters tend to lean toward White House contenders they would like to have a beer with, so it may be a good idea, beyond the beer mile, to bring in some other brew-based tests. After imbibing a six-pack of beer, is Bernie still as inspired to lead his revolution, or would he rather take a nap, a la sleepy Republican candidate Ben Carson? Can Ted Cruz recite Article Five of the Constitution, can Clinton fill out a map of the Middle East, and can Trump climb over a Mexico-wall-themed obstacle course*?
Maybe they could face off in a game of beer pong. There's some precedent in Arizona. In December, state election officials said they would determine the order in which presidential candidates would be listed on primary ballots using a lottery machine loaded with balls advertised on Amazon as "awesome balls for beer pong!"
Or, they could have a chugging contest. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio could test out who makes Florida prouder with their beer-crushing skills. If we give a pass to those teetotalers in the field, Trump, who doesn't drink, could have a kid-friendlier milk-chugging contest with rival Cruz. It might earn them brownie points with the farm crowd. Speaking of which, FFA Week is just around the corner. If the GOP insists on keeping its February 25 debate on the schedule, maybe candidates can race tractors to the debate day as an homage to drive your tractor to school day. The winner gets extra talk time.
Of course, the competition can't just be physical -- it has to be mental as well.
Standardized tests are a favorite of the U.S. educational system, so why not use them in presidential politics? (It works the other way around.) Call it "Common Core for the White House." Trump will have to study up on the nuclear triad; Chris Christie will figure out the name of the king of Jordan; and Carson can put together an essay expanding on one of his most confounding lines of the entire debate cycle: "Putin is a one-horse country: oil and energy."
For the math portion: the tax challenge. Give each candidate 30 minutes to complete their taxes under their proposed plans. Sanders might be at it for a while. Carson, Cruz and drop-outs Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee might be able to get their paperwork together quickly, but they won't have anywhere to file, given that they've all proposed getting rid of the IRS. Winner gets to make the losing candidates pay income taxes under the Sanders tax plan for a month (the rates are high).
If not a boring paper test, how about a game show? The Donald speaks at a fourth-grade level, but is he smarter than a fifth grader? Will Jeb! excel at Jeopardy! due to a shared affinity for exclamation points?
It would all make election season a lot more exciting. And who besides the (hated) media wants more debates?
* We know some of these folks don't drink, but if it was required to become president, we wager they would learn to.