President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry face-off tomorrow in a prime-time debate that may determine the outcome of the hotly-contested 2004 election.
But analysts and pundits have expressed concern and irritation at the highly restrictive conditions the candidates have placed on the proceedings. According to debate guidelines, agreed upon by the two campaigns in accordance with the Commission on Presidential Debates, candidates cannot bring prepared notes or props, cannot move from their designated spots, and cannot ask one another questions. In a further effort to minimize any embarrassing "gaffes" that a rival campaign could seize upon, the candidates have also agreed to avoid speaking about any subjects that could be construed as "political." The sole activity that will take place during the five-minute debate is an exchange of mix CDs, wherein each candidate will give a collection of his favorite songs to his rival. The moderator will ensure that the two men hand their CDs to each other at the exactly the same time. The campaigns and the press are forbidden from divulging the track listings of the CDs, and the event will not be televised.
This will be the only presidential debate of the campaign, but the vice-presidential candidates will meet on October 5. According to the agreement, Dick Cheney and John Edwards will each be allowed to make one "your mama's so fat" joke at the other's expense, and then the two will make light chit-chat over a catered dinner.