FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2008
Contact: Press Office
Clinton Camp Calls For Lincoln-Douglas Style Debates
Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams sent the following letter today to Obama campaign manager David Plouffe calling for Lincoln-Douglas style debates between Senators Obama and Clinton.
April 26, 2008
David Plouffe, Campaign Manager
Obama for America
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, IL 60680
The attention, excitement and energy around this presidential election is unprecedented. The stakes could not be higher for our country and the American people. The economy is sliding into recession, our men and women in the Armed Forces are fighting two wars abroad, and our country is reeling from the harsh legacy of the Bush-Cheney Administration. The American people are choosing a direction for their children and families. They have a right to hear from those who want to be their leaders. Our Democratic primaries reflect the keen interest of the American citizenry in this election. Our primaries have brought millions of new people into the political process and invigorated a national conversation about the best solutions to meet our challenges.
Senator Clinton believes deeply that political debates are a vital part of our democratic process. It is the American way to place our would-be leaders side by side to hear them articulate and defend their ideas; to challenge each other on their visions for the future; to answer the tough questions about their plans, their records and their judgments; and to celebrate their achievements.
Senator Obama has declined the invitation from CBS and the North Carolina Democratic Party to appear for a debate at North Carolina State University tomorrow evening. Senator Obama has apparently declined the invitation of the Indiana Debate Commission to appear for a debate in Indiana next week. Senator Obama has not responded to Senator Clinton’s challenge to debate in Oregon. Will there be no debates in other upcoming states? The American people, of course, deserve more. They deserve debates before casting their votes. They deserve debates just like the states who have participated in this invigorating process before them.
I understand that Senator Obama has raised the point that there have already been more than 20 debates this election cycle. However, only four of those have been between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. We can all agree that many important issues have received scant attention during previous debates, including such important topics as education and the energy crisis.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, a series of public debates across Illinois where two candidates put their ideas, their visions, and their values before the American people. I have no doubt that Senator Obama, who hails from that great state, understands how valuable and vital these national conversations were to the heart of America. We can surely meet the standard our forbearers did. Our final two primary candidates to date have had three fewer debates than Lincoln and Douglas held in single state over 60 days in 1858.
And if we debate, Americans will come. Recent debates have attracted record numbers of viewers – more than 10 million for the last one. And a great number of voters in recent primaries have said that the debates in their states were important to their decision.
Senator Obama himself suggested the last debate in Philadelphia did not provide enough opportunity to talk about issues that “matter to the American people.” A Lincoln-Douglas style debate would certainly provide that opportunity. There would be no questions from the media. There would be equal time and equal opportunity to grapple with the important policy questions we are facing today. As Douglas put it, the two candidates would meet “for the purpose of discussing the leading political topics which now agitate the public mind.”
In the spirit of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, we make this proposal:
Senator Clinton and Senator Obama will participate in a 90-minute debate in an open public forum. Just the two of them -- no questioners, no panelists, no video clips. One candidate would speak for two minutes, then the other, alternating back and forth all the way through the debate. Their discussion – not any pre-set rules – would determine how long they spend on one subject before moving on to another. Such a debate would range across all of the challenges, large and small, we face as a nation or it could focus on the most significant issue we face today, -- the economy.
We can readily agree on a host, a place, a date, and a broadcaster or series of broadcasters.
Both of our candidates are making history. Let us continue to do so. Let’s debate.
Statement from the Obama Campaign on Presidential Debates
CHICAGO, IL— Obama campaign Communications Director Robert Gibbs released the following statement on Presidential debates.
"We have participated in 21 nationally televised debates, the most in primary history, including four exclusively with Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton refused an earlier invitation that had been accepted to debate in North Carolina. Over the next 10 days, we believe it's important to talk directly to the voters of Indiana and North Carolina about fixing our economy, cutting the cost of health care and ending a war in Iraq that never should have been authorized in the first place," Obama campaign spokesperson Robert Gibbs said.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2008
Contact: Obama Press Office, (312) 819-2423