If a prize were given for ridiculous political ideas - of which there is never any shortage - the winner for 1996 would be easy to pick, even though the year is not yet half over.
The award would have to be shared by Toledo Blade publisher John Robinson Block and University of Toledo president Frank Horton for suggesting that the quadrennial presidential debates be expanded to include Hillary Rodham Clinton and Elizabeth Dole.The rationale for the suggestion: the presidency is really a two-person job, first ladies may influence their husband's policy decisions, can act as role models and sometimes exercise other kinds of clout. A debate, the argument goes, is the best way to let the public know their views and qualifications.
The trouble is that if this notion were carried to its logical conclusion, there would be virtually no end to such debates.
The wives of vice presidents also exercise some influence on their husbands and others. Must there be debates between the spouses of these candidates, too?
Why stop there? During his only debate with Ronald Reagan in 1980, Jimmy Carter claimed that he discussed nuclear arms control with his 10-year-old daughter, Amy. Consequently, a debate involving candidates' offspring? How about forums for various in-laws, too?
The White House can't always act unilaterally. It often must get approval from Congress, which sometimes can override presidential decisions. So drag congressional spouses into the campaign debates, too?
Clearly, the line must be drawn somewhere. As it is now, the presidential and vice presidential debates cannot be carried out without lengthy prior negotiations over their format, numbers and timing. Enough is enough. No spouse debates, please!