There's a new reality show airing tonight.
Actually, it's not new. It's been running for several years, but this year there's a slightly newer cast and some fresh, new drama.
And like most television reality shows, it's only partially true to life. Most of it is designed for good TV.
Tonight's televised presidential debate, which is being broadcast on all of the major networks and cable news channels at 8 p.m., is the first of the campaign season. It should command a rather attentive audience — people who want to see the two candidates spar in person for the first time.
President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry have agreed to stick to a discussion of foreign policy and homeland security — arguably the most critical issue on the minds of voters this year.
We urge you to watch the debate and take from it what you will — even if it appears to be a construct of speechwriters and political strategists.
Pew Research Center studies estimate that more than 40 percent of young voters will use the debates to help them decide whom to vote for. For both candidates, this debate sets the tone for the rest of the campaign and could make or break their platforms.
Televised debates are often a contest of images — perceptions based on behavior, confidence and carriage — not ideas, as experts are wont to point out. Long gone are the days of Lincoln-Douglas, when a debate meant that strong ideas were countered only by strong argumentation. Even so, it will be interesting to watch the candidates maneuver in a debate format as some of their strengths and weaknesses will come through in the process.