Time's Mark Halperin has made himself useful for once by obtaining, and publishing,a copy of the 21-page memorandum of understanding that the Obama and Romney campaigns negotiated with the Commission on Presidential Debates establishing the rules governing this month's presidential and vice presidential face-offs. The upshot: Both campaigns are terrified at anything even remotely spontaneous happening.
They aren't permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a "predesignated area." And for the town-hall-style debate tomorrow night, the audience members posing questions aren't allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.
Most bizarrely, given the way the debates have played out, the rules actually appear to forbid television coverage from showing reaction shots of the candidates: "To the best of the Commission's abilities, there will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question or to a candidate who is not giving a closing statement while another candidate is doing so." The "best of the Commission's abilities" must be rather feeble, seeing as how almost every moment of the two debates so far was televised in split-screen, clearly showing shots of a "candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question."