Yesterday, CNN held a debate among the 8 Democratic Presidential candidates where the questions were asked in the form of videos posted to YouTube. While these questions came from YouTube viewers, it is worth noting that it was CNN that made the final selections of which would be presented.
There have been several similar debates held before this one, the first of which was held April 26 in Orangeberg, SC. I haven’t been able to watch these debate live because of a lack of cable TV and work-schedule. Before this one, the only debate that I had watched clips from on the Internet was the first one. Watching these clips and how they contained many vacuous, obviously scripted soundbite responses lowered my interest in watch more, so I didn’t put in extra effort to searching the torrents for them, for instance.
However, because this debate was co-hosted by YouTube, it was much easier for me to access the full debate, because YouTube has a page with the debate segmented into a video per question here. They make a few mistakes, including replacing the sex education question with the video that was displayed, which you can find here.
One of the problems I find with the current debate format is the lack of uniformity in the questions that have been asked, which makes it difficult to compare the positions of different candidates because they each answer different questions.
It is interesting to see how the frontrunners tend to play it safe when answering, as opposed to the second tier candidates, who seem to more freely make bold statements, the boldest statements, of course, coming from Mike Gravel and Denis Kucinich.
The three frontrunners each had their own little quirky tendencies. Hillary Clinton tended to answer using the most platitudes of the bunch, Obama liked to turn questions in to references about change or how he’s not accepting money from PACs or lobbists, and Edwards liked to give his own interpretation of what a question meant (often a quite a stretch from the original question) and tried to focus on poverty.
News coverage on past debates commented on things like how “Presidential” one candidate or another has sounded (as if this constituted a sound criterion for election). If candidates performed similarly in past debates to this one, then I have a hard time believing that anyone was particularly impressive, as much of the candidates’ energy, especially among the top tier (Clinton, Obama, and Edwards) seemed to go into changing the questions and packaging their words in politically correct sentiments and euphemisms. Of course, Mike Gravel is the exception to that, but he’s not looking for the Presidency, but rather to create some ripples in the political pond: