Debate and Decision Series

In the best American tradition of open inquiry, spirited discussion and practical action, The McCain Institute has re-introduced the practice of structured, reasoned debate on critical challenges facing the United States and the world.

Too often in today’s public discourse, we see pre-arranged talking points aimed at political profiling rather than honest debate aimed at problem-solving. McCain Institute debates offer a frank and informed format that aims to build deeper understanding, mutual respect, political civility and decisive action. The debate series is distinctly non-partisan, aiming to look forward at future policy choices, not to look backward to criticize.

Past debate topics include U.S. policy on: Cuba, Syria, China, Afghanistan, Iran, the Defense Budget, Egypt and the Arab Spring, Transatlantic Trade, Drone Warfare, and Russia. Past debaters include former senior government officials and nationally recognized experts from leading organizations such as the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, CNN, Fox News, the Wilson Center, Pepperdine University, Human Rights Watch, Stanford University and the RAND Corporation. Debates have been covered by C-SPAN and are also available at

Every debate is open to the public and made available for television broadcast in order to reach the widest audience possible. The debates are followed by recap ‘Decision Notes,’ which are crafted by the Institute to provide policymakers, experts, students and others the key points and recommendations raised by each side in the debate, encouraging the reader to come to his or her own conclusion about the choices facing the United States.

Having launched the Debate and Decision Series in Washington, The McCain Institute is expanding the series to other U.S. cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles and Boston. Each debate attracts nearly 250 audience members – often including senators, ambassadors, former White House officials, journalists, editors, NGO leaders and students – and reaches thousands via live streaming.