Newton Minow on the history and future of presidential debates

John McCain
Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain greet each other prior to their second presidential debate at Belmont University's Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images 2008

Newton Minow is the author of “Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future.”

In a 1955 memo to his boss, attorney Newton Minow first suggested the idea of presidential debates. In the decades since, these debates have become some of the biggest and most influential moments in political history. And Newt, who serves on the commission that sponsors them, has watched them evolve first-hand.

In this episode of the “Discourse Disrupters” series from Intelligence Squared, John Donvan sits down with the father of the American presidential debate to discuss just how these historic events came about, how they've changed with time and technology, and what role they should play in our future.

Newton Minow is an attorney and the former chairman of the FCC, serving under President John F. Kennedy. He is an architect of American political debate and currently serves on the board of the Commission on Presidential Debates. He has been chairman of PBS and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2016.

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