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Saturday, November 17, 2007

The CNN Democratic Debate

Many of us watched the most recent Democratic debate on CNN this Thursday at our watch party/pong tournament, but I wanted to post some reactions now that I've evaluated it in the sober light of day.

First, I think CNN did a pretty poor job, both in terms of the questions and the atmosphere. The crowd was out of control, and Blitzer didn't even try to control them. It was a large crowd, but not so large that it couldn't be managed. The crowd had a very obvious pro-clinton tilt, as they were booing and shouting down Obama and Edwards on more than one instance.

Click "There's more..." for the rest, including why Drexel was so much better than UNLV.

I think respectful applause is perfectly fine at a debate, as it adds to the flow of the debate and punctuates important moments. However, there's a definite line between repsectful applause and raucus cheering/booing. That kind of behavior by the audience is totally inappropriate, because it's a privilege to go to one of these events. Tickets go to the golden few, and are not distributed evenly amongst supporters of candidates. The audience is not a representative sample of the public. Furthermore, the American people don't watch the debates to hear the opinions of the audience, they watch to hear the positions of the candidates. The audience members that shouted down Obama should have been kicked out immediately. No one should be allowed to hijack a national event like this by shouting from the audience (and I'm not just saying that because I'm leaning Obama; I'm really not a Clinton Hater.)

Contrast this with the Drexel debate. The audience was generally pretty respectful and restrained. There were applause lines, there were laugh lines, and there was that one instance with Kucinich and the UFO when people were, well, pretty animated. Looking around the auditorium, the most obnoxious person I noticed was an elderly Clinton supporter sitting directly in front of me. She made the Drexel students in the audience look like choir boys.

Regarding the substance of the debate, well, what is there to say. With seven candidates still on stage, we saw lots of questions and short answers. I think that Jamie's article in The Triangle this week was pretty accurate in that there isn't anything substantive about the candidates that you learn from the debates that you can't learn from their websites. Reading Barack Obama's energy policy on his website is surely more informative than listening to him try to squeeze it into a 60 second response to a hostile Wolf Blitzer over a jeering crowd.

With so many debates scheduled, they have been reduced to style over substance (although reduced may not be the correct word, they may always have been there). Still, it's worth watching them and appreciating them for the political theater that they are. Of course, they're more fun if you watch them with the Drexel Democrats over drinks!

Talking Points Memo, as always, delivers a great highlight reel so we don't have to! Enjoy!