Reporter's Notebook

Question of the Week
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The best reader responses to the latest question we asked in our Politics & Policy Daily newsletter (sign up here).

Show 29 Newer Notes

Q of the Week: Who Should Moderate the Debates?

Critics pounced on Today Show host Matt Lauer for his handling of NBC’s Commander in Chief forum featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, foreshadowing the level of scrutiny the moderators will face during this fall’s presidential debates. The scheduled moderators are Anderson Cooper of CNN, Lester Holt of NBC, Martha Raddatz of ABC, and Chris Wallace of Fox News—and they’re already feeling the heat.

So, this week we asked readers to offer their thoughts on who might make the best presidential debate moderator and why. Several readers suggested MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. Here’s Marguerite Beaudoin’s reasoning:

It is my opinion that Rachel Maddow would be a great moderator, despite the fact that she is a Democrat. She is capable of conducting herself in an unbiased and professional manner and can “handle” both of them without doubt.

Here’s Maddow in action:

There was also a lot of support for Democracy Now! host and producer Amy Goodman. Why? Reader Lisa McDaniels picked Goodman because she’s “smart, has an amazing breadth and depth of knowledge, is even-tempered, is independent/not owned by corporate media, and looks like a real human being, not an air-brushed celebrity.”

A particularly great suggestion came from reader Steven Durham, who really wishes Judge Judy could moderate the presidential debates:

She would destroy Trump for having no substance; she would destroy Clinton for her terrible campaigning skills; and she’d be entertaining, which is what the American voter apparently needs in order to be engaged.

Reader Joe Bookman suggested The Atlantic’s very own Molly Ball: “She is smart, fair, has demonstrated knowledge of the issues as well as the candidates, and is likely not well-known by the candidates themselves.” Another reader, David Murray, described what a talented debate moderator would bring to the stage:

The best moderator, in my opinion, will:

a) Hold the speaker accountable for a clear answer and do not allow a speaker to side-step a question.

Congress returned to Capitol Hill this week, and Candice and I posed a new question to our Politics & Policy Daily readers: What book should be required reading for every senator and representative? We got an overwhelming number of responses, but here are a few of our favorites:

Martha Allen was the first of many to suggest Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson’s widely acclaimed memoir detailing his career as a young lawyer, fighting against injustice in America’s criminal-justice system.

Another popular submission was The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th-century manual on manipulating your way to power. Thanks to Jerry Purmal for being the first to suggest it.

In case you’re curious: Michael Ignatieff examined The Prince more closely in his piece for The Atlantic back in December 2013, asking whether President Obama is “Machiavellian enough.”

One particularly thoughtful response came from Briauna Barrera:

If I could assign one book for every member of Congress to read (and perhaps everyone period) it would be Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.

The presidential debates are fast-approaching, and last week, we asked who might make a good stand-in for Donald Trump in Hillary Clinton’s debate prep. This week, we turned the tables, asking our Politics & Policy Daily readers who could cleverly portray Clinton during Trump’s rehearsal. We had a handful of great responses, but here are our favorites:

Jane Curtin, suggested by Howard Cohen

Howard explains:

Since Trump is liable to borrow the famous Dan Aykroyd line “Jane, you ignorant slut” from the old Saturday Night Live's “Weekend Update” segment (which was a parody of the old 60 Minutes “Point-Counterpoint” with Shana Alexander and James J. Kilpatrick), there is no one better to play Hillary than Jane Curtin.

“Crooked Hillary, you lying witch.”

"Donald, you go from giving Bill and the D’s money to running for president as a Republican while stiffing charities and your own contract workers...”

In the coming months, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will face off in what will surely be some of the most riveting television showdowns of all time. But many campaign watchers are wondering how Clinton is going to prepare for a debate with such a notoriously brash and unpredictable candidate. She is reportedly struggling with that question herself.

So this week, we asked readers to recommend who they think could artfully play Trump in a debate rehearsal. Turns out, you have given this a lot of thought, as nearly a hundred responses came in. Props to reader Marc Boissonneault for the winning suggestion of actor Alec Baldwin. You probably remember Baldwin from his role as wealthy businessman/news exec Jack Donaghy on NBC’s 30 Rock:

Marc writes:

Alec Baldwin has the physical presence and acting ability to be a believable Trump. Also, he is smart and politically savvy, so he would know what Trump would say and how he would act. He would totally kill this gig.

But who else could take on Clinton without holding back?

Our newly revamped newsletter Politics & Policy Daily (formerly The Edge) started a new little feature on Monday, “Question of the Week.” In the inaugural entry, Elaine—who runs P&PD—asked:

Last week, Britain voted to break with the European Union—a decision known as “Brexit.” If the United States were to leave the United Nations, as Sarah Palin suggested, what would that exit’s nickname be?

Readers sent scores of submissions throughout the week, and today the Politics team picked a winner: Amerigo, submitted by Bob Kerr. The two runners-up are Conscious UN-coupling from Julian Ha and Saranara from Art Kane. Some honorable mentions:

  • Lee C. Fanshaw with my personal favorite: Yankxit
  • Barry Popik would text the United Nations: UNmeRnot2B
  • Chris Leggett goes social media: UN-friending
  • John Wetzel goes with the Italian word for “exit”: Uscita
  • Connor Phillips might be a servicemember: USAWOL
  • Kenny from California: USAway
  • Howard P. Cohen: USAloha!

Aloha indeed, and happy Fourth! When 240 years ago, Americans exited Britain.

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