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The Debate That Never Was and The Debate That No One Saw

“The debt came up in oblique ways during the debates, but it wasn’t nearly central enough.”

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The 2012 presidential debates garnered television audiences usually reserved for the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards or the finals of American Idol (insert joke here). The Oct. 3, 16 and 22 debates, according to the Nielsen rating system, registered ratings of 67, 66 and 59 million Americans who tuned in to watch President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Even the Oct. 11 debate between Vice President Joe Biden and GOP VP hopeful Paul Ryan drew 51 million viewers.

Whether zingers about Big Bird, bayonets or binders of women actually influenced anyone's vote remains to be seen, but more than a few poll-watchers walked away disappointed -- either by what they heard or what they wished they heard.

The Debate That Never Was

'To No Avail'

Three-term Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo has the luxury of watching the 2012 election from the sidelines (he won't have to consider re-election until 2016).

"I'm discouraged about the election process overall," said Crapo. "And not just the presidential race, but the battle for the Senate and U.S. House as well."

Crapo isn't a pessimist. He's just angry that we've lost a critical opportunity to debate the true issue of our times: a raging national debt.

"The debt crisis came up in very oblique ways during the debates, but it wasn't nearly central enough," he said. "We should be having a very powerful discussion about the imminent threat from the fiscal cliff."

In fact, when Boise Weekly asked Crapo if one of the presidential debates should have been set aside for an all-debt 90-minute dialogue, the Republican senator didn't skip a beat to answer.

"Absolutely. That's absolutely true," said Crapo. "The Committee for a Responsible Government called for such a debate, but to no avail."

But the debates are over and whether Obama or Romney is the victor on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Crapo said he and his colleagues in the so-called Gang of Eight -- a bipartisan commission tasked with crafting solutions to the debt crisis -- have a Plan A and a Plan B.

"I can't get into too much detail, but the gang has developed a plan to work with whoever is president," said Crapo. "We're aware of all the moving pieces and, yes, they can be moved around based on the political outcomes."

Crapo acknowledged that the bitter political landscape that has defined the 2012 electoral process has divided Democrats and Republicans on how to tackle something as dramatic as tax code reformation.

"How we do it is one thing, but I believe we have majority report on whether we need to reform the tax code," said Crapo. "I think it breaks both ways, equally between both parties, and that's a start."

The Debate That No One Saw

The Don Quixotes

When Boise Weekly challenged Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson in August that his only probable path to victory was to take part in the nationally televised debates with Obama and Romney, he wholeheartedly agreed.

"You're right. It's the only way I can win," said Johnson in a BODO coffeeshop. "We're asking all of my supporters to call polling organizations to include my name in the debates."

Either not enough people called pollsters, or the Commission on Presidential Debates discounted Johnson's support, because he was nowhere near any of the three debates.

A few days after Obama and Romney shook hands on a Boca Raton, Fla., stage following the final of their three debates, Johnson strode out on another Boca Raton stage to face Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Moderator Larry King called the candidates "Don Quixotes," while the candidates jousted with such diverse topics as the role of corporate money in politics, the cost of higher education and the war on drugs.

"I've smoked marijuana and I've drunk alcohol. In no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol," said Johnson. "The drug problem is prohibition-related."

Of the four, only Goode argued that the war on drugs was not a waste and said he would not support legalization in any form.

Taking on the National Defense Authorization Act, Anderson called the indefinite detention without charge or trial, "the very definition of tyranny."

Stein addressed the increasing levels of student debt, arguing that college should be free and a system similar to the G.I. Bill for veterans should be adopted for everyone.

Viewers (presuming they knew it was happening in the first place) needed to access the event via YouTube, C-SPAN or Al Jazeera.

You can watch the full debate below.

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