Why do we call it a debate?

The so-called debates between political candidates rarely take the form of debates used in high schools and colleges around the world.  Most notably, the candidates never provide a rebuttal or directly address questions.  I have often seen candidates state they want to respond to Point A made by the other candidate; but then the response has nothing to do with Point A.  Instead it is a whole new topic and attack on the candidate.  It goes like this: “John’s economic policy will increase the number of people on welfare”.  The “rebuttal” is, “Well, in response to that, Barrack’s health care agenda will leave millions of elderly in the dark.”

I believe that true debates could be helpful in several ways.  They could help the citizens of the US better understand the complexities of the issues.  And they could help policy makers chart better policies.  However, I don’t think most political candidates know their topics well enough to be good debaters; but I could be wrong in a few cases.  What do you think?