Back in 1963, Barry Goldwater and John F. Kennedy were seriously mulling the idea of chartering a campaign plane and traveling around the country together, debating actual issues and letting the electorate decide who would be the better candidate based on actual policy differences. Tonight on MSNBC, in light of the news that McCain and Obama would perhaps be open to holding moderator-free town-hall debates, Tim Russert wonders whether an election based not on petty, manufactured "character gaps," but on actual substantive differences is possible. Can you even begin to imagine that level of civility in today's political culture?
"The tone of the campaign is going to be very interesting to me. Both men have said publicly that they really want to elevate the discussion. This discussion back and forth about having joint town meetings throughout the summer brought me back to 1963 when John Kennedy and Barry Goldwater had all but agreed to fly around the country in the same plane, have town meetings - robust differences - and then shake hands, go back on the plane and go to the next city. I always wondered aloud, 'would that ever be possible in 2008?' And McCain and Obama seem to be suggesting it may be do-able. And if they both hold true to try close down these 527s, these so-called independent groups, could we have a real debate about Iraq, and about health care, and about taxes where people take pride in their position, and openly acknowledge it's different than the other candidates, and then say to the voters, 'you decide which one of us should be Preisdent.' That would be pretty interesting to cover."
Indeed, it would, Tim. Indeed, it would.