Public debates are like court trials. They pit one against another in order to test the relative soundness of each position in circumstances designed to provide equal footing for both. Debates not only put the issues to a forum of balanced argument, they try the ability of each candidate to think on his feet, a talent that good performance in public office demands. Some of the journalists who moderate them aside, the judges are not pompous, black-robed presiding jurists, they are the voters.
Debates are a great political tradition, and an important public service. Long may they stand.