Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some Thoughts on the Debate

I watched last nights debate (yeah, masochistic behavior of a political junkie), and here are a few of my thoughts:
The "lightning round" format sucks. Giving each candidate 30 seconds to answer policy questions? Impossible to do. There is no serious policy question that can be answered in 30 seconds. All you can do is spew out a "talking point" or a "sound bite". It's a fine format for a game show, but not a real, important debate. Unfortunately, our media treats the campaign for president as one big game show. Entertainment trumps substance.
Brian Williams was bad, but Tim Russert was absolutely horrible in asking "gotcha" questions. The whole debate was a series of Republican based attack points, designed to provoke fights, mud slinging, or other embarrassments. Russert oozed a slimy contempt toward everybody.
Everybody is running against Hillary Clinton, whom the media have already crowned. It was the "6 guys vs. Clinton" food fight that Russert/Williams were trying to provoke, and they were mostly successful.
Clinton handled it fairly well, appearing confident and unflappable while basically saying nothing (or contradicting herself). She's good at selling an image, but carefully avoided any substance. I hate this type of politics, but it will be tough to beat. She's slick, and no one landed a major blow against her. If the debate were a game show, she won.
Barack Obama came off poorly, looking rather tired and uninspired. His message, which seemed to be "can't we all just get along" while throwing in some subtle digs at Clinton, got mixed results. He was much better at handling questions on policy, and it was clear that he would prefer to discuss substantive ideas over playing "gotcha", but he got sucked into the game. Overall, he was fairly flat.
John Edwards looked good, and he was able to make some arguments with substance while attacking Hillary. In a "real" debate, he did very well. In this "food fight", Hillary was able to duck everything he threw.
Chris Dodd continues to be a fiery constitutionalist. In a true intellectual debate, he would have been tough to beat. In the "game show" debate, he never had a chance.
Bill Richardson continues to be Bill Richardson: calm, intelligent, extremely experienced, and (unfortunately) completely uninspiring. In a serious campaign to choose the person most qualified to be president, he would be a serious contender. In the media circus, he doesn't stand a chance.
Dennis Kucinich...what can you say? The guy makes a lot of sense, but ends up looking goofy at the same time. Let's face it, the media finds him an easy target to make fun of because he's an easy target. Kucinich has some really good policy positions which are completely ignored, as Russert would much rather ask him about UFO's. It's a sad reality.
Joe Biden is verbose. Experienced and knowledgeable, therefore almost invisible, the format of the debate made him irrelevant.
Is Clinton inevitable? No. But she does have a large advantage thanks to the media. For either Edwards or Obama to defeat her, they will need a "blockbuster" performance.
That is the current sad state of politics in America. The person who ends up holding the most powerful office on the planet will be chosen by a process similar to "American Idol".


ellroon said...

Thanks, very nice overview. Linked to you!

Fran said...

Oh Py- you said it all and you said it so well.

This is sad. Thirty seconds? Excuse me? Wow. What can be said? Well - a lot if you are practiced in the dark arts of soundbyte nation. And Hillary is great at that.

Edwards did make his point but... always falls short.

Dodd continues to emerge as a hero for me, but he is lost in this.

I actually found myself annoyed as all get out with Dennis as he lets them play him in that way. I mean -come one. Don't answer the UFO question that way. Call that fat fart Russert for even asking it and asking it the way he did!

Biden did have the best line of the night about Rudy's sentence structure... a noun, a verb and 9/11.

Despite working less than 1 mile from it, I never go to Ground Zero. Yesterday I was overcome with the need to do so and wrote about it on my blog.

Hearing not only Biden's Rudy line but the rhetoric that we must operate within is all structured around that day and place.

It sucks.

Justin said...

Go Dennis! Why do the best ideas have to be promoted by a little vegan elf?

I didnt see the debate, but i know what you are talking about. Substance replaced with tabloid questions. It is a shame, or maybe a sham.

oh ya, thanks for fixing my links!


BAC said...

Nice report! I, too, am bothered by the 30 second lighting round format. It does suck. We live in a complicated world that simply cannot be defined in 30 seconds.

I actually missed this debate, so cannot comment on it directly. What I will say, however, is that while the media does put its spin on everything reported, the reality is that in national polling Hillary has a substantial lead over the other candidates.

Her numbers keep increasing, because as more people actually meet her, they like her! She is quite charming in person.

I have problems with all the current crop of Democrats running. I don't think there is a "perfect" candidate. Therefore, I plan to vote for Hillary.