August 13, 2007

YouTube Debate Revived

CNN has rescheduled the YouTube debate for Republican presidential candidates for the week after Thanksgiving. Most of the field has committed to the debate, with the notable exception of Mitt Romney (via Memeorandum):

The Republican Party of Florida, CNN and YouTube will announce Monday that the organizations' Republican presidential debate will be held on Nov. 28, two months before Sunshine State voters hold their gateway primary into "Super Tuesday."

Originally, the three partners targeted Sept. 17 as the date for the debate that will feature video questions submitted by voters through YouTube. But some campaigns expressed concerns about the timing of the event and the debate partners worked to find an alternative date. ....

(NYT) The campaigns of Rudolph W. Giuliani and Senator John McCain have signed on, according to CNN, which will broadcast the event. CNN said it had not heard from Mitt Romney, who has been critical of the format, in which the public poses questions via video sent to YouTube. Mr. Romney’s spokesman could not be reached last night.

The Republicans were supposed to hold their YouTube debate Sept. 17. But after a similarly styled Democratic debate in July, Mr. Romney called the format demeaning, in part because one of the questions to Democrats came from an animated snowman. In addition, he and Mr. Giuliani said they had scheduling conflicts because the date came near the end of the third quarter, when they would be focused on raising money.

With Giuliani and McCain committed to the debate, and with a resurgent Mike Huckabee already on record as advising the Republicans to participate, Romney will likely have no choice but to accept the invitation, as will Fred Thompson. None of them will be terribly thrilled by the event, of course, but they will all participate. The primaries will be too close for them to pass up the opportunity to appear on national television.

This time, though, let's hope CNN does a better job selecting the questions. Despite the hyperbole of candidates facing "the people" through this debate format, the editors at CNN selected these questions from a pool of over 3,000 entries. It takes the town-hall format -- at which all candidates excel and which they use in every whistle-stop appearance -- and lessens it to any other televised debate format, except that it encourages entertainment over substance. A look at the transcript from the Democratic debate shows this clearly from the first four questions:

You're going to spend this whole night talking about your views on issues, but the issues don't matter if when you get in power nothing's going to get done. ... I mean, be honest with us. How are you going to be any different?

Mrs. Clinton, how would you define the word "liberal?"

Congressman Kucinich, how would America be better off with you as president than we would be if either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama became president?

If you had to pick any Republican member of Congress or Republican governor to be your running mate, who would it be?

And let's not forget the one CNN chose as the finale:

I would like for each of you to look at the candidate to your left and tell the audience one thing you like and one thing you dislike about that particular candidate. And remember, be honest.

If we're going to have these YouTube debates, then I challenge CNN to at least make them substantive. We don't need questions about personalities, or on definitions of political labels, and we certainly don't need questions that bear more resemblance to cocktail party icebreakers than political issues. CNN has editorial control over the selection of these questions, and if they can't do any better than that, they don't deserve an audience. Given 3,000 entries, there had to be more substantative questions than some fantasy musing on a Republican VP selection.

Of course, my suggestion still stands -- invite bloggers to help select the questions. It would provide some needed accountability and transparency to the selection process. As the first debate showed, it could hardly make things worse.


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Great... We are going to get some more questions from Snowmen and idiots on youtube. Youtube is great ot see videos musicians, comedy and other interesting stuff, but a debate for the Presidency of the United States of American is [Read More]

Comments (4)

Posted by Jazz | August 13, 2007 10:03 AM

As we've previously discussed, you and I will likely disagree on this subject for as long as it remains an issue. I think this format is long overdue and is not being enough credit on the starboard side of the aisle. Once again you have selected a handful of the less pertinent questions as examples, but the actual questions from the Dem debate included Iraq, gun control, abortion, gay rights, taxes... what more did you want them to cover?

Also, I disagree that "personality" questions are valid and important for such debates, as long as that's not *all* that's covered. We DO want to know about the personality, sense of humor and temperment of the candidates. Much is made of temperment, self restraint, and how "in touch" the candidates are with regular Americans. That format gave the candidates a chance to highlight those things for the voters watching. This event will give the GOP candidates that same opportunity. This hostility to the YouTube format from certain members of the Right is perplexing to me. You're shooting yourselves in the foot.

And, again, we will also disagree on your suggesting. Having the questions limited to ones asked by Right wing bloggers for the GOP candidates (same as if it were suggested to have Daily KOS and Atrios select the questions for the Dems) which are arguably the most partisan and one sided choices possible, would hamstring the debate entirely and turn it into a dog and pony show, robbing the voters of any chance to see the candidates put through *all* their paces. An informed voter should take every opportunity to gather all the information possible. This format, when properly conducted, can only help.

Posted by FedUp | August 13, 2007 10:29 AM

hmmmmm... I'd rather have a do-it-yourself root canal than suffer through another idiotic display. Someone wake me when we get down to serious debating of the issues!

Posted by Sue | August 13, 2007 10:34 AM

If CNN is stupid enough not to allow people with intelligent, reasonable and pointed questions that are very knowledgeable on their issue, I say, let all the bloggers blog it live and tear apart the questions, answers and CNN. Let the bloggers respond to the questions also so that we, the voters, can see as many different sides as possible.

This would be soooooo different than anything the Left would or could do. But, I would love it.

Posted by hap | August 13, 2007 11:58 AM

I didn't watch the Democratic Youtube debate as I thought it was merely an exercise in marketing by a self-congratulatory media. In reading some of the questions, though, I disagree with Ed's assessment. The goal of something like this is to get the wooden puppets off script. To that end, these questions might accomplish their goal. Romney would be crucified in such a format and quite rightly looks eager to avoid it. We've already seen him completely ignore questions and answer incomprehensibly in previous debates. There's no telling how bad it would get in this format. As Huckabee has recognized, he's the only candidate capable of benefiting from such a format.

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