Why I Hate Lightning Rounds

Is it just me, or does the “lightning round” represent everything that’s wrong with American political discourse? I understand that candidates can get wheezy and it’s necessary to set limits. But the idea that you can even begin to give a satisfying answer in 30 seconds is absurd. Worst of all, you get these extended cut-off battles, which makes the candidate’s answer sound verbose and meandering, even when it’s not:

[BRIAN] WILLIAMS: Governor Richardson, we’re going to start with you. This is about something called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. It’s called TIMSS. A number of overseas nations took part in it. It found that overseas students spend an average of 193 days annually in school. The deficit compared to the U.S., where it’s 180 days – over 12 years, that adds up to one-year gap between education in the U.S. and overseas. Do you believe we in this country need to extend the school day and/or extend the school year? And will you commit to it?

GOV. RICHARDSON: Yes, I’d commit to it. And I’m glad finally education is coming up in a major debate. This is what I would do. We are 29th in the world in science and math compared to the EU, to countries in China and India. They graduate four or five times more engineers. There is a competitiveness gap here. This is what I would do. One, I’d have 100,000 new science and math teachers. But we have to pay our teachers what they deserve, a minimum wage, what I believe, of $40,000 per year. I’d get rid of No Child Left Behind. I would have science and math academies.


GOV. RICHARDSON: But in the high school curriculum, it’s critically important –


GOV. RICHARDSON: – that we have more civics, more language, and art in the schools –  

MR. WILLIAMS: Governor?

GOV. RICHARDSON: – to provoke creativity in science and math proficiency.  

MR. WILLIAMS: Thirty-second limit on these.

(See nifty New York Times transcript analyzer here .)