Newt Gingrich on Sunday said that if he runs for president in 2012, he would not participate in a debate that had MSNBC's Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann moderating.
Instead, the former Speaker of the House told C-SPAN's Steve Scully that he'd prefer to just have an open, informative dialogue between the candidates with only a timekeeper (video follows with transcript and commentary):
NEWT GINGRICH: I think that the candidates and the Party ought to organize the debates not the news media. I think that the unending tendency of the news media is to play gotcha games, and I think that we’d be much better off to have a more serious and a more substantive style of talking with each other about what we’d do to help America rather than the sort of, “You now have 30 seconds to describe your policy on Pakistan,” which is an absurd way to try to run the country.
STEVEN SCULLY, HOST: Can you do that?
GINGRICH: Of course you could.
SCULLY: Can you tell NBC you’re not going to participate in the debate?
GINGRICH: Of course you can. You say to NBC, “How would you like to cover our debate?” You can say, there’s no possibility that I would ever go to a debate and have Olbermann or Chris Matthews asking questions. I, I watched the debate a couple of years ago, and it was an embarrassment because they were so relentlessly hostile, and they were so left wing, that every question they asked of the Republicans was designed to embarrass and divide the Republicans and every question they asked the Democrats was designed to make them look good. Well why would we participate in that?
SCULLY: Would you do it without a moderator or just among the candidates?
GINGRICH: I think you can do it with a timekeeper. Reagan and, I mean not Reagan. Lincoln and Douglas debated seven times for three hours and they had a timekeeper. That’s all they had. And I, I, I’d feel very comfortable, you know, I’m not saying, if we got to that point, and I was a candidate and they were candidates, people like Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Gov. Romney, I’d feel very comfortable having an agreement to behave like adults, and observe the time, and just, and figure out what the topics ought to be, and actually have a dialogue not a debate. How are we going to solve our country’s problems, and how are we going to move ahead? And I’d be glad to do it at the Reagan Library, but without the kind of Mickey Mouse, you know, questions asked by hostile news media.
SCULLY: So the debate announced this past week by NBC News and Politico at the Reagan Library if you are a candidate would you participate?
GINGRICH: I’d want to see what the terms were and who’s going to be there. I mean, but I would not participate if it was a hostile reporter asking gotcha questions with an absurd time limit.
Just imagine how much the public would really learn about the candidates if this were to happen.
Unfortunately, it seems impossible to imagine any network allowing so much air time without being able to market its anchors and on air personalities.
*****Update: To give readers an idea what Gingrich was talking about concerning "the debate a couple of years ago," here is NewsBusters report concerning the May 2007 GOP presidential debate with Matthews and others asking really silly questions.
A few days later, the MRC compared and contrasted the questions asked at the Democrat and GOP debates.