You are absolutely right that face-to-face debates between Dukakis and Bush are more useful to voters than the current so-called "sound-bite debate." At one minute per candidate per day of sound bites, it takes a full month to get the equivalent of a one-hour debate. Spreading a one-hour debate over a month is extremely poor for the voters, since this makes it much harder to remember and compare points being made. This also makes it impossible to discuss details on any topic.
The presidential debates are our best opportunity to compare the candidates, and to see them think on their feet. I believe Congress should make these debates mandatory. At least three debates are needed, since if two debates are very different it is impossible to tell which is more typical. There should be lots of follow-up questioning so the candidates cannot simply respond with prepared speeches. The candidates should be questioned by reporters, by experts on domestic and foreign affairs, and by each other since each of these will bring a valuable perspective to the questioning.