Second-Tier Presidential Debates

Many of us enjoy watching the debates between presidential contenders — or their running mates — in hopes of getting a better picture of their views on the issues that interest us most. Unfortunately, the general debates tend to focus on broad issues where our interests can often be quite narrow. A pair of upcoming debates between presidential advisers promises to offer venues to home in on John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s stances on issues that may affect many in the research community.<!—->

Next Monday (Oct. 6), for instance, the candidates’ energy advisers face off at MIT. They’re the same guys who represented Obama and McCain at an environmental forum last April — former CIA chief R. James Woolsey presenting John McCain’s stance, and Jason Grumet, founder of the <!—->Bipartisan PolicyCenter (which focuses on energy, national security, health care, and transportation policy) offering up Obama’s roadmap. A brief bio of each debater is available on an MIT website. The event will be moderated by Tom Ashbrook, host of National Public Radio’s daily talk show, On Point.

You can expect to hear the pair discuss their candidates’ views on offshore drilling versus nuclear-power development as a route to energy security. Or which contender’s cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions promises to get the most bang for the buck.

MIT says the 90-minute affair, slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. will be taped for airing later (via But you can also watch this event from your computer at Clean Skies (http://www.cleanskies.TV). Currently, MIT isn’t sure when that debate will be loaded for viewing. When I find out, I’ll update this blog.

I also got an invitation today for a debate in Washington, D.C., a week later (Oct. 14) that’s being sponsored by Research!America and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Moderated by New York Times economic columnist David Leonhardt, it will focus on how health and research are likely to impact the economy. Representing McCain’s views will be his science and health adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Tim Westmoreland of GeorgetownUniversity’s LawCenter will present Obama’s take on the issues. The hour-long event is being held at the Newseum’s KnightConferenceCenter.

Research!America’s vice president Stacie Propst first mentioned this event to me last Friday, when we were talking about something else. At that time, she told me the event should be either webcast or podcast — and archived, as well, for viewing later. Currently, Propst’s team has no details on where or how to view the debate (short of showing up — and seats are already limited). But when I learn more I’ll update this blog. So stay posted.

Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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