After watching the third presidential debate, I got this strange feeling. The more I tried to shake it, the stronger it came back. I kept asking myself, 'Wouldn't this whole debate be improved if there was an applauding audience, large nametags, and the moderator was replaced by Bob Barker in a cheap suit?'

I must be crazy, right? Whoever heard of such a thing? Everyone knows that the debates are a time when two very serious men sit down to discuss very serious issues. But every time I convinced myself of this, one of the candidates would start talking about 'Joe the Plumber' or something equally comical. Then it hit me. The presidential debates are much more suited for an afternoon game show.

The format change would come as a shock at first, but I think eventually everyone would find it more interesting. The first big change would be to do away with all the 'debating.' After all, most of the time, Obama and McCain's debating technique can be summarized like this:

McCain: And what about the time you did that?

Obama: Well, I simply never did that, but what about when you did this?

McCain: Why, I simply never did that.

Repeat this formula ad nauseam. So once we cut out all the boring 'substance,' we'll have a lot of time to fill with fun challenges. But first we'd need a better location; after all, nothing says bland and boring like a couple of microphones standing in a college auditorium. These days, it's trendy to make game shows look all hi-tech, so I'd probably add in some lighted floors, spotlights and a booth up above where the banker could sit.

A good techno soundtrack would really heighten the drama, and I'd require each contestant to pause for at least 3 seconds before answering any question. This would allow for the multiple camera angles that would ramp up the tension. Then we'd need supermodels to showcase all the prizes available. (You know, a 3-day trip to Tahiti, a new washer and dryer set from Kenmore, the keys to the Oval Office, stuff like that.)

Also each candidate would get three lifelines, where they could answer any question in a way that was completely irrelevant. For example, if asked, 'How much will you reduce foreign oil dependence in your first four years?' a candidate could reply with 'I believe each and every American has the right to own as many cats and dogs as they want, stipulating that they know how to care for them properly.' After all, policies and promises don't always come true, but who doesn't love puppies?

I've given a lot of thought to what sort of challenges the contestants should participate in, and I think you'll agree they showcase all the skills needed for the next President of the United States.

Round One: Sound bites. Each candidate can only speak in short sound bites that can easily be played and replayed on the nearest 24-hour news station. The one who can simplify their policy the most wins. For instance, economic policy becomes: Wall Street baaadd, Main Street gooood.

Round Two: Make as many outlandish promises as possible while still seeming believable, as judged by a live studio audience. The candidate with the most policies promised wins! But be careful - if the audience stops believing you, you lose all your points. Bonus points if you can promise to balance the budget in your first four years without laughing.

Round Three: Who really knows their vice president? Each candidate will be asked about his or her running mate's favorite hobby, movie and Senate subcommittee. Whichever candidate gets more matches proves to be the best-suited (and cutest) couple.

Also who wants a boring town hall debate when you could have a dance hall debate instead? And here's the twist - while dropping it like it was hot, the candidates must also explain their plan for Social Security in detail. Celebrity judges will make their decisions based upon style, creativity, posture, and use of inductive and deductive logic.

But all of the previous rounds would pale in comparison to the most grueling and toughest section: The 'Ronald Reagan Impersonation Round.' Whoever does the best impersonation of the Gipper, as decided by an applause-o-meter, wins the final challenge, and quite possibly, the presidency. For the loser, his only consolation would be a new massage chair from Sharper Image and the knowledge that they were on the highest-rated show on television.

And the memory of Bob Barker saying: 'You are the weakest link, goodbye.'

Zane Sparling is a sophomore at Lake Oswego High School. He writes a column every month for the Lake Oswego Review. Contact him via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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