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Inside the Presidential Debates

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Tonight Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton face off in an ABC News debate in Philadelphia. There have been so many debates this primary season that, for many people, the novelty's worn off a bit. But the chance for people all across the country to see the candidates face off is a relatively modern phenomenon.

And the man who's been called the “father of televised presidential debates” lives right here in Chicago. He's Newton Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and author of the new book, Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future. He's also vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors debates during the general election. Now 82 years old, Minow says the idea for televised debates hatched when he was a young campaign staffer.

Music Button: Steve Reich, "Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ" from the CD box set Steve Reich: Phases (Nonesuch records)

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