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Don't waste our time in the presidential debates

Republican presidential candidates take the stage during the

Republican presidential candidates take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. Credit: AP / Chris Carlson

There are 10 more Republican presidential debates on the schedule. Are you groaning or giddy? We're wincing, because Wednesday night's contest, while another ratings smash, was a missed opportunity. It was a moment when voters should have learned something about how the candidates view one of the world's most vexing problems, but did not.

The theme of the debate, ostensibly, was foreign policy. And as a competition to see who could sound strong, it was a smashing success. As a forum for actual ideas, not so much. The candidates restated their positions on the Iran nuclear deal. But nothing was said about the refugee crisis wracking Europe and the Middle East, where Russian President Vladimir Putin moved troops into Syria to engage in the endless civil war that's a major cause of the crisis.

The debate took place on a day when Hungarian police shot tear gas and water cannons at migrants to keep them out, other desperate refugees trekked across Croatian fields laden with land mines, and Putin suggested talks with President Barack Obama on a diplomatic solution to the Syrian chaos. But we heard mostly attacks on past policies, not ideas for solutions.

The candidate who most stood out, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, was prepared and detailed, whether or not you agreed with her. Other candidates should follow her lead.

Whether the field remains large and unwieldy, we need to hear more substance from Republicans. The same goes for Democrats in the six debates their party has scheduled.

Personal attacks, preferred Secret Service nicknames and women whose faces should appear on the $10 bill make for good TV, but not an informed citizenry.