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Letters to the Editor: Should RFK Jr. be taken seriously, on or off the debate stage?

A man with gray hair, dark suit and tie, holds his hands up as he speaks at a lectern
Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at a campaign event in April in Boston.
(Josh Reynolds / Associated Press)
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To the editor: Robin Abcarian nailed it when she said no one should debate Donald Trump or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The so-called debates are just joint press conferences. There is no connection between the primary debate format and how one should run a government. Impulsive, impromptu, quickly thought-out responses do not show whether one knows the best way to make policy.

These debates are good for ratings and allow lesser-known candidates to gain exposure. They provide “gotcha” moments for talking heads. There is little substance.

To get substance, those who plan these debates should consider in-depth interviews with single candidates with qualified and prepared journalists. William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line” from decades ago is a good example. Another alternative would be an Oxford-style debate, such as those conducted by Intelligence Squared, which has a format where you can measure which participant changed more opinions.

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As long as the current format is in effect, I’ll stick with “Young Sheldon.”

Steven L. Rice, Thousand Oaks

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To the editor: Robin Abcarian quotes biologist Eugenie Scott’s claim that debates are “drive-by shootings when it comes to critical thinking.” As one who participated in debate throughout high school and college, virtually everything I learned about critical thinking grew out of my ability to craft and respond to arguments in the crucible of an adversarial debate. Indeed, debate was the central method of teaching critical thinking from Aristotle through the mid-1900s.

Now, the question of whether or not the televised events the political parties offer us are in fact debates is a good one. My own view is that they are better characterized as joint press conferences.

At any rate, the next time you need an expert’s opinion on debate, you might want to consult a rhetorician rather than a biologist. I’m easy to find!

Peter Marston, Glendale

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To the editor: In her column on not debating RFK Jr. or Trump, Robin Abcarian wrongly advocates a form of censorship. These men hold sway over public opinion whether they are publicly debated or not, which is exactly why their positions must be put to the test.

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If Trump and RFK Jr. are truly off base, then their claims can be shot down with simple presentations of the facts. We can’t resort to censorship or simply ignoring the proverbial elephants in the room. Perceived problems that are ignored only fester and spread.

In the end, an informed public will be able to discern which positions actually hold water. We need inclusive debates to help us hash out who the metaphorical water bearers are.

Kimberly Blevins, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Regarding Jean Guerrero’s column on RFK Jr.s’ appeal to left-wingers in L.A., some Gold’s Gym members see him as a symbol of masculinity, and California conspiracy theorists view his buff body as a sign of moral strength and discipline. However, I would refer them to NYU Professor Scott Galloway, who writes “real men protect other people.”

As a nurse practitioner working in COVID-19 vaccination clinics, I have been shocked by Kennedy’s anti-vax conspiracy theories, including his latest assertion that the coronavirus may have been targeted to attack Caucasian and Black people, and that the people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. Members of his own family have disavowed his beliefs. It’s time bodybuilders, and the rest of us, disavow his beliefs, and him.

President Biden is fit for his age, and he meets the definition of a real man.

Jacqueline Ficht, South Pasadena

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