Critics of the CPD"The debates are part of the unconscionable fraud that our political campaigns have become. Here is a means to present to the American people a rational exposition of the major issues that face the nation, and the alternate approaches to their solution. Yet the candidates participate only with the guarantee of a format that defies meaningful discourse. They should be charged with sabotaging the electoral process." Walter Cronkite
"The debate commission should be broadened to include third party members and independents and others, or it should be replaced. The two major parties are becoming so much alike, and the American people know it. They want more choices. Maybe, if we let other people participate in the debates, people will start believing that politics matter." Congressman John Lewis, a former CPD director
"I'm for more open debates. I think we have nothing to fear by allowing people to be seen and to argue and to talk with each other and I think the very concept of an elite commission deciding for the American people who deserves to be heard is profoundly wrong." Newt Gingrich
"I want to see my party achieve victory based on what we have to offer this country and our ability to offer it with integrity. I don't want to see us achieve victory based on the fact that we are better at rigging the game than other people, that we can put our hands together in collusion with corrupt Democrats and keep others from being heard. Why should we be afraid to have people whose views we can with integrity oppose be heard by the American people?" Alan Keyes
"There's something that stinks about this. It's fundamentally undemocratic. It's awfully close to corruption. There's something unhealthy about this. If this group can arbitrarily rule that a billionaire who gets 20 million votes and qualifies for $30 million in election funds can't participate then God help the rest of us." Jesse Jackson, after Perot was excluded from the presidential debates in 1996
"Putting the commission in charge automatically biased the system toward the two parties that have dominated our politics. The commission charter explicitly recognizes the legitimacy and importance of the two-party system, and the co-chairmen, Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, are there as former chairmen of the Democratic and Republican national committees. The two-party system has served this country well and is worth protecting - but only up to the point that it does not conflict with other values important to the electorate. In an era when increasing number of voters are discarding old party loyalties, significant independent candidates have a claim on participation in the debates." David Broder, Washington Post reporter
"By deciding yesterday to exclude Ross Perot from this year's debates, the commission proved itself to be a tool of the two dominant parties rather than guardian of the public interest. This commission has no legal standing to monopolize debates, and it is time for some more fair-minded group to get into the business of sponsoring these important events." The New York Times
"In dictatorships, it's common for political insiders to hinder or even silence non-establishment challengers. To do that in America, which supposedly champions open elections, is outrageous and intolerable. But that is just what the Commission on Presidential Debates has done. On Thursday, it announced an unfair, unreasonable and unjust rule almost guaranteeing that only the Republican and Democratic nominees will be admitted to nationally televised presidential debates this fall." The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"Presidential debates ought to be about the choices of ideas in the marketplace of politics, with the aisles as wide as possible. If the political views and reforms of today's allegedly minor candidates so labeled over drinks at the National Press Club or faculty lounges are seen as fringy, perhaps it is because the two major parties, with their shared monopoly on what is safe, stale, and sterile, fear freshness." Washington Post columnist Coleman McCarthy
"A pre-election debate that brings in a wider range of views can only strengthen the vibrant dialogue that's needed to inform voters. The debate structure should be enlarged to include any candidate who either gets, or whose poll figures indicate his or her party will get, public campaign financing." Christian Science Monitor
"The Commission on Presidential Debates is a corrupt stranglehold on our democracy." Phil Donahue
"The Commission on Presidential Debates must be replaced if we want to have a democracy in this country." John B. Anderson, former Congressman and presidential candidate
"The commission is a setup for the two-party system. Its decision is being presented as if it were made by a group of Olympian gods. But this is a group of hard-bitten pols who play at the highest levels and have very clear motives." Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.
"Where did these people come from to be final arbiters of free speech?" John Culver, a former US senator and CPD director.
"If the debates are sponsored by the debate commission, when neither candidate wants a third party in there, it's not in their interests, they're not going to allow it." Lawrence Noble, former General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission
"What is not arguable is that with co-chairmen who are former chairs of the Democratic and Republican national committees, the commission has an innate bias against third parties because they challenge the two-party system." The Boston Globe
"Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan will not be allowed into this year's presidential debates. They should be, for at least one debate. In the seven presidential elections in which we've had debates, in only one year, 1992, were there more than two candidates in any debate. That year, Ross Perot went into the debates with 5 to 6 percent support. He went on to win 19 percent of the vote. The two parties didn't like that. That is why they excluded Perot in 1996 and it is the reason for their 15 percent threshold now. The 15 percent threshold suits the two parties. It unduly restricts the American people." The Seattle Times
"I'm a little concerned that when somebody is getting as much attention as Ralph Nader is and when somebody's getting as much attention as Pat Buchanan has always gotten, the reality is the American people, I think, are entitled to hear all of these candidates debate. You know, it would be healthy for the country and healthy for the discussion of the issues that are going to confront this country if you have all of those key players involved in a debate." Leon Panetta, Gore supporter and former White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton.
"You know, we shouldn't be afraid to hear other people's opinions and [Nader and Buchanan] are legitimate candidates." Congressman John Kasich, Bush supporter and House Budget Chairman
"This will not be a debate in the sense the word is often used in the English language because all of this is so tightly controlled by the candidates themselves and their managers. These things have developed over the years into what some people believe can more accurately be described as a joint campaign appearance or an orchestrated news conference." Dan Rather
"I'm trying to forget the whole damn experience of those debates. 'Cause I think it's too much show business and too much prompting, too much artificiality, and not really debates. They're rehearsed appearances." Former President George Bush
"The American people are the losers because the real issues never are aired by the candidates." Congressman Ed Markey.
"The commission itself is controlled by the major parties - and they obviously have no interest in advertising any alternatives to business as usual in Washington. Third party candidates must already navigate a maze of onerous and expensive requirements to appear on state ballots. A party that demonstrates it has the support and organization to reach ballot status in most states deserves the opportunity to participate in the presidential debates. That condition alone would ensure the number of participants remains easily manageable." The Las Vegas Review-Journal
"Debates should be open to any candidate with a mathematical chance to win the necessary electoral votes - any candidate who is on the ballots in states with cumulative total of 270 electoral votes. Some people justify excluding from debates candidates not from the major parties in order to prevent cacophony.' But a high decibel level can betoken democratic vigor." George Will, commentator and columnist
"A third-party candidate could have the support of 28 million Americans of voting age, receive millions in public election financing and yet be denied the chance to debate his or her opponents. That would be an injustice, not only to the candidate, but to the independent-minded voters who could be swayed by an articulate and persuasive third-nominee." The Portland Press Herald, criticizing the CPD's criteria
"The debate commission is just a clear case again of the two parties banding together to keep down the rise of a third party. It's a standard thing that has historically happened many, many times. I think the public should be outraged over this." Jesse Ventura
"Given the appalling lack of engagement by Americans eligible to participate in our electoral process, the CPD should have paid more attention to their own mission, "to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners." Including Buchanan, Browne and Nader in the debates might or might not be in the best interest of the Republican and Democrat parties - and my advocating their inclusion won't endear me to most of my friends in the GOP. But if broadening participation in the debates increases public participation in our political process, that can only be good for America." Oliver North
"Simple rule: If you're going to give them taxpayers' money on the theory that they're credible candidates, then you ought to let them participate." Mario Cuomo
"This is a particularly stringent test since it takes only 5 percent of the vote to qualify for public financing - and it all but ensures that the Democratic and Republican nominees won't have to share the national stage with any pesky interlopers. Why not just skip the polling and hire armed guards to gun down any threat to the two-party domination of the debates instead?" Arianna Huffington, criticizing the CPD's criteria
"I think its very significant that a large segment of the population wants to see more candidates in the debates. I'm almost ashamed that our system has not opened arms to let these folks in and have an opportunity to present their views. If people in the Republican and Democratic parties have good ideas, they should be willing to state them and defend them." FEC Commissioner Scott Thomas
"Why do we keep trying to manipulate the outcomes of elections ahead of time? That's really what we get into here when we start trying to determine who's popular, who's viable, who's crazy, who isn't. This is a continuing question in this country. On the one hand, we give federal matching funds to Perot, but then we say, well, you're really too out of mainstream to be on the stage. We really ought to stop trying to manipulate history before it's happened." Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune
"Should Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk tell the American people whom they may hear in the critical presidential debates, or should the American people decide that?" Pat Buchanan
"The best reason for inclusive debates is that minor candidates have a way of putting important issues on the table. In 1992 Ross Perot advocated deficit reduction and trade protectionism. The first idea was subsequently taken up by both major parties; the second was attacked by both, but Mr. Perot served the useful function of forcing Republicans and Democrats to sharpen their free-trade arguments. This year Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Nader would like to give protectionist anti-globalization another airing, and raise other issues too. Messrs. Bush and Gore should take them on, not ignore them haughtily." The Washington Post
"Competition is healthy in all things. Third-party candidates in presidential debates will have the effect, ultimately, not of weakening the two-party system, but of strengthening it." Michael R. Beschloss
"The narrowness of the presidential debates, their scripted nature, is the source of their lack of vitality and credibility. Including significant independent and minor party candidates is a critical aspect of democratizing the debates and broadening our national dialogue. The American public has made it clear they want broadness and inclusion." Former Congressman Tim Penny
"Staging organizations should not be given the subjective authority to bar a qualified candidate from participation in a presidential debate simply because a subjective judgment has been made that the candidate does not have a reasonable chance of winning the election. The American people should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not a candidate has a chance to be elected president." Former Congressman James Traficant
"A five percent requirement makes more sense and has legal precedent, as it mirrors the five percent level of support mandated for eligibility for federal campaign funding. It allows independents and nominees of minor or new parties to spread their message to the American people." Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
"This process ought to be as open as possible. The American people deserve that. And they certainly deserve not to have elites, whether it's some organization or pollster somewhere, deciding who they're going to get a chance to hear from and who they're not going to have a chance to hear from." Gary Bauer
"The debate commission is a corrupt duopoly." Steve Forbes
"We need to break the monopoly the CPD has over the debates. They do not serve the electoral process well." Bob Teeter, chairman of the 1992 Bush campaign
"A bipartisan commission is inadequate when a Ross Perot is running. It is not a bi- or tripartisan commission that is needed, but a neutral commission composed of representatives of both major parties, network executives, scholarly experts, and representatives of other full-blown presidential campaigns." Marvin Kalb, former moderator of "Meet the Press."