THE BIG DEBATE

These television debates of our presidential candidates leave me exhausted. Not even TV bowling requires so much body English. To avoid the bends when the pressure is released I find there is nothing better than a round or two of fist-fighting debate about the debate in my neighbor’s recreation room. Of course we are all agreed on our aims; we support the same candidate. We differ only on the means—how he should campaign. When our discussions warm up it is just as well that we don’t have to project a dignified image to several million observers.

Dr. Martin Luther Bauer dropped in during a lull in our last session. He is a great admirer of his namesake, and was soon describing the Reformer’s debates with Eck at Leipzig. Television came too late. Those debates were spectacular, crammed with everything a TV cameraman could desire: ruling dukes, gowned doctors, crowds of partisan students. Even the lecture chairs were worth a close-up. The standard shot of a participant listening to his worthy opponent would have come alive when it caught Martin Luther smelling a carnation during Eck’s first attack.

Luther and Eck did not debate in the vacuum of a television stage. The live Leipzig audience reacted all around them. The university professors slept, either from policy or from professional boredom; the students rioted; Duke George shouted on occasion. Even long hours of Eck’s scholastic quibbling could not make the occasion dull. Any U.N. cameraman would have known how to fill in the time with views of scribbling secretaries and snoring professors. The microphones might even have picked up from the back benches of the Romanist side the Latin cry Dā eis Eccum!

Debates are much milder now, which is a blessing. The explosive ...

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