I tried to watch last night's first debate. I managed to watch for more than thirty minutes, but less than an hour. What I did see resembled something more akin to a grade school playground activity, than any real debate.
First of all, I do not think that it is a good idea to have a nationally known figure, especially a so-called newsperson, serve as moderator. His role was doomed from the start, and he never made a serious effort to gain control, in my opinion. Maybe the moderator should be given some real tool for control, like a button to turn off a participant's microphone when the participant speaks out of turn, or runs over, or strays too far off topic. I say that because, from the little that I saw, Mr. Holt was not making much effort to keep things on track, and he allowed the proceedings to deteriorate very quickly.
I believe that a debate involving candidates for the office of President should be dignified, and should follow some simple rules of courtesy and decorum, but these things were lacking in last night's mess. I think a part of that would include addressing the moderator as Mr. (or, Miss) Moderator, instead of as Lester, his first name.
Have you ever seen depictions of the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates, from the late 1850's? The transcripts of those debates are available in .pdf format online, and perhaps worth a read. What they show is that Americans had to be overall much more intelligent than we are today. Both speakers used a vocabulary much more extensive than anything we see from today's politicians, for one thing. Their eloquence was allowed a full one hour each, to begin with - without interruption. They both displayed respect and courtesy towards the moderator, and they both stayed on point. Granted, speaking for such a long time, and from prepared notes would tend to make that more possible.
I think the interesting thing about what those debates show is that the American people were capable of so much more in 1858, than they are today. And, that underscores and proves why we are today saddled with such poor choices when it comes to choosing our next President. We are simply too dumb to be able to listen to anyone with a modicum of intelligence on display. They still say that had a lot to do with why Adlai Stevenson did not succeed in his attempts to be elected President; he was too much of an intellectual for the average man on the street.
Overall, I believe the idea of Presidential debates should be scrapped, and another way be sought to provide candidates with a platform. Granted, we do not want even more money allowed in campaigning, but we have to have a way to let them show themselves. Meanwhile, in addition to the debates having deteriorated to a circus side show, it appears very likely that most Americans had already made up their minds prior to the event. All I see online today about the debates is each person referring to those parts of the debate that tend to support their previously settled opinions.
So, debates for Presidential candidates are ultimately a waste of time. That's just my opinion.