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"Presidential Debates" illuminates such details as:
the elaborate attempts to offset height discrepancies between candidates, such as the "belt buckle compromise" between Carter and Ford mandating the height of the candidates' respective podiums;
the full story behind debate moderator Bernard Shaw's infamous question to Michael Dukakis about his wife being hypothetically raped and murdered; and
the calculation and faux-spontaneity of Reagan's influential quip, "There you go again," which effectively dismissed Carter's pointed accusations about health care.
With innumerable behind-the-scenes stories about the candidates, their advisers, the on-air correspondents, the producers, and other backstage lore, Schroeder illustrates how, like all forms of television, debates combine artifice with truth. An unusual blend of civics and show biz, the presidential debates are revealed here as both carefully scripted rituals and opportunities for the totally unexpected.
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