Dan Rather talking presidential debates at the Time Warner Media/Politics conference today (h/t Michael Calderone):

“First of all, these aren’t debates,” Rather said. “They are a ‘something,’ but they aren’t debates.”

Rather talked about the constricted format and that the two major political parties are the ones engineering them through the commission.

“These so-called debates are not by the people, for the people,” Rather said. “They are by the parties, for the parties.”

Meanwhile, Broadcasting & Cable asked the moderator of tomorrow night’s “something,” Bob Schieffer, what he would do if McCain and Obama spontaneously agreed, on-air tomorrow night, to junk the agreed-upon debate format and rules in order to try to have something resembling a debate? Said Schieffer:

You know what? If they did that, I would say ‘Gentlemen, have at it.’ I would lean back in my chair, and I would probably enjoy it more than anyone else. That would be the dream, wouldn’t it?

(I can think of someone else who might be in a position to spontaneously set aside restrictive debate rules. Live “the dream!”)

More promising words from Schieffer:

And if they try and get off track, I’m not going to be bashful about saying, ‘Gentlemen, that was not the question.’

And:

These follow-up questions don’t have to be too complicated…

No answering a question other than the one posed! And, follow-ups! That would be something

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.