Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pose for a photo at the start of the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Monday, Jan. 16, 2012.

Although I understand Linda Jones' desire to have presidential debates behind closed doors ("Republicans should unite," Readers' Forum, Jan. 18), I can offer three reasons why debates are televised and very public (and these reasons apply to presidential candidates from both major parties).

First, it allows for citizens to be involved from the very beginning and helps shape policy. Public debates are useful in keeping the democratic process alive. Second, the debates force candidates to articulate their qualifications and beliefs and demonstrate their leadership styles. This gives the public information to decide, based on tangible evidence, which candidates they like best.

And third, the process essentially strips candidates to their essence and exposes any and every imperfection. Although this is sometimes painful to watch, the process sifts out candidates with the most weaknesses and helps ensure the best ones are on the ballot in November. What doesn't kill them makes them stronger. The current process ultimately brings candidates that are most qualified and best reflect the views of the American people.

Matt King