Sadly, the CNN silliness continued last night. The questions were predictable and Wolf asked for follow-ups of the candidate he knows will provide the most incendiary response. It seems that CNN believes that the purpose of hosting a Presidential debate is to create a spectacle that they can then cover. It’s brilliant, actually: make your own news that you can cover. But it doesn’t help voters figure out who they should vote for and it certainly doesn’t help the cause of the party whose candidates are debating. Highlighting past tiffs or manufacturing new ones is politics as cock-fighting. Candidates need much longer than a minute to explain their position on ending the Iraq war, solving health care problems, or how to handle immigration reform. Can we get a Presidential debate run by an organization that doesn’t have a conflict of interest?
Before I move on from complaining about CNN, Wolf Blitzer deserves some special criticism. He insists on continuing with his “going down the line” questions where he asks for a “yes or no” answer. Sometimes it’s nice to get a one-word answer from a politician such as when Blitzer asked the candidates if they would support whichever candidate becomes the Democratic nominee – that’s a question to which one can answer “yes or no”. However the question of whether the candidate supports giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants is not a “yes or no” question because the question presumes that there is no change to the status quo and that’s the real crux of the issue. As Obama tried to explain to a clearly too-stupid-to-understand Blitzer, the issue isn’t over whether we should allow illegal immigrants to drive cars but over how to manage the population of illegal immigrants that we already have. But Blitzer wouldn’t let it go – like a dog chewing on a meat shaped plastic toy, Blitzer thought he had something and wanted to tear into it.
Since CNN, Blitzer, and the debate structure itself took center stage, it was worth critiquing first. But some relevant content did manage to slip through. Bill Richardson came across as a bit condescending but still somewhat competent. Edwards seemed a little righteous, but perhaps justifiably. Kucinich handled himself pretty well, even when Blitzer tried to get him to say that he was pro-union to a fault. I remain ambivalent about Hillary Clinton because she has a lot of the right answers but I always feel like they are regurgitated reflexively rather than genuine thoughts. Chris Dodd presented himself well and had some really solid answers. I especially liked the new Joe Biden – perhaps he has mentally given up on a win and that makes him more relaxed. Whatever it is, he should keep doing it.
Finally, a quick complaint about the crowd: after Clinton answered strongly about being a woman running for President, John Edwards got boos for pointing out that she takes money from lobbyists. It’s sad that the crowd was as emotive as they were through the evening and that they were as easily swayed by Clinton’s prepared pablum.