Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich have close to a hundred years of significant government experience and very significant things to say about the campaign, but have been treated in these debates like the opposition to Vladimir Putin are treated in the state-controlled Russian media.

It is a disgrace and a sham and a disrespect not only to those candidates but to the very idea of an informed citizenry choosing our next leader in a democratic election.

This CNN debate began with a lie.

Matt Drudge reported that the Clinton people were pressuring Wolf Blitzer to go easy on Hillary; Blitzer dutifully denied. Either Drudge, the Clinton people or Blitzer was lying, and obviously it was Wolf.

Why couldn't Blitzer say the truth, that the Clinton people used Drudge to send him a message?

It gets worse. The first 20 minutes of the debate completely excluded a majority of the candidates despite Blitzer's lame and false promises that they would all be heard.

It gets even worse. In the kind of completely unethical practice that has become all too common in this campaign, CNN had the gall to pressure a student to ask a trivial planted question of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally It's about the delegates, stupid MORE about her relative opinions of diamonds or pearls.

Never mind that in this warped and ridiculous debate format the Bidens, Dodds, Richardsons and Kuciniches are largely closed out by the dictatorship of who decides which candidates are allowed to speak.

Never mind that candidates are interrupted in the most rude and unprofessional way if they dare to take more than a few seconds to discuss World War III, or the threat to the earth from climate change, or how to help the multitudes of the homeless or those without healthcare.

To waste time on questions about diamonds and pearls when candidates do not have the time to intelligently discuss Pakistan is Kafkaesque; to force-feed a question on a student, aimed at the network's favored candidate, on such a stupid and trivial matter is not merely Kafkaesque but Putinesque.

It gets even worse. The so-called analysis of the debate is conducted by a partisan of one of the candidates, who dutifully cites the success of his candidate. This is not merely an issue of disclosure, with the lack of disclosure yet another unethical practice of what passes for journalism. Why was James Carville chosen in the first place? Couldn't CNN find even one objective analyst?

Folks, I don't blame Hillary Clinton or Jim Carville. If I were advising a major candidate, and more than once I have and probably will again, if I had the chance to dominate a debate by rigging the rules: Go for it. That is the way the game is played, let's be honest about it.

This whole affair was a shame and disgrace and the latest in a series of debates that were managed in ways that insult the very notion of an informed electorate choosing our leader in a democratic election at a dangerous time.

My advice if this happens again: Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Kucinich should agree in advance to walk off the stage together and find some place to have their own debate, for as long as it takes, to have the kind of serious discussion our country deserves.

Trust me, if they do, it will be a ratings smash.