Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the debate of the future

At last night's CNN/YouTube debate among the Democratic candidates, a full slate of primary contenders were vying for your vote, but in the end, the format won.

Voters recorded videos of themselves and submitted them to YouTube. CNN then picked the cream of the crop and presented the best questions to the assembled candidates.

Political debates that incorporate the public are undoubtedly the way of the future. After the debate ended, moderator Anderson Cooper said on CNN that he couldn't imagine future political debates that did not follow a similar format.

But who among the candidates really shone last night? Who stood out? Who earned some votes? Reaction was mixed.

According to Easter Lemming Liberal News, four different panels chose three different winners. After the debate ended, the CNN broadcasters said that New Hampshire voters were most impressed with Barack Obama, while Nevada voters were equally impressed with Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson.

Mike Gravel appeared incredibly feisty and ready for a fight, but unfortunately CNN only allotted him four minutes and ten seconds, as opposed to Barack Obama who talked for more than fifteen minutes, even out-talking host Anderson Cooper. Gravel even used some of his time to comment on that sad state of affairs. He spent the rest of the time calling the other candidates the advocates for mainstream Washington and keeping things at the status quo.

John Edwards, often polling at third behind Clinton and Obama in surveys of potential voters, may have hit a speed bump when asked about gay marriage. He said that his wife Elizabeth supports gay marriage, but that he does not. When pressed, he admitted that he supported civil unions and that he was still, with much of America, "on a journey."

Some of the submitted questions were hard-hitting and probably would never have been asked in a traditional debate. For instance, one voter asked for a response to critics that said Hillary Clinton was not feminine enough and that Barack Obama was not black enough. Edwards said that if anyone considered not voting for Clinton or Obama based on gender or race, he did not want their vote either.

(Unfortunately, though, Edwards brought gender to the forefront again later when asked to say one good thing and one bad thing about Hillary, and he said he didn't like her jacket. It was all in good fun, but isn't that what we're trying to get away from?)

When Clinton was asked whether or not she would be taken seriously abroad, she pointed to female foreign leaders in Germany, Chile, and various other countries. She also said that she couldn't see a more fitting thing to have a woman American president addressing the treatment of women in Muslim countries.

Clinton was also asked about the dynasty problem (that is, Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton). If she were elected and re-elected, the Bushes and the Clintons would have controlled the American presidency for 28 years. The senator responded humorously, saying that Bush shouldn't have been elected in 2000 and that she was under the impression that a different person had won.

Humor was prevalent throughout the debate. One submitted video featured a talking snowman asking about global warming. Another asked the candidates if their feelings were hurt by the attention that the media gives to Al Gore. Bill Richardson said he liked all of the candidates and thought each of them would make a good vice president.

If you missed the debate, you can read the transcripts or watch the videos online. See where your favorite candidate stands on important issues like global warming, No Child Left Behind, national health insurance, and the war in Iraq. If you want to watch specific issues discussed, YouTube has single videos of each particular question.

CNN and YouTube will continue in this vein of technology-age debates on September 17, when the Republican candidates take the stage and field questions from voters.

EDIT: CNN website users that participated in the debate scorecard said that Hillary Clinton won the debate (46% voted for her, while Obama garnered 28% of the nearly 7,000 votes). The poll also shows that viewers thought Joe Biden knew most about the issues, that Barack Obama's campaign would get the biggest boost, that John Edwards had the best singular answer to a user-generated question, and that Bill Richardson showed the most disappointing performance.

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