Okay, I know the election is well over 500 days away still. I also believe that this is way too early for 8 (if Mike Gravel is still in things) Democratic and ten to twelve GOP candidates to be debating and campaigning already. And, as is with the placement of nominating conventions, placement and timing of debates and forums (just what the heck is the difference?) is crucial.
Last Monday – I think, as I have been sitting here figuring I would type about this for a while – the Democrats held the CNN/YouTube debate. All eight candidates, potential candidates were there. Hopefully, not only to know what the opposition was saying but to get a feel for the exact type of debate it is, the GOP faithful were watching.
This debate asked the questions that the average news caster/moderator shys away from. It asked questions that put candidates in hard spots. The main reason for the hard spots is the questions asked, 99% of the time, would personally affect the person asking the question. It is hard, even if over a video link, to look at the cancer patient who pulls off her wig as she is speaking of health care and not be concerned for her personal well-being.
Unfortunately for those asking the questions, answers to debate questions do not normally have personalized answers. The answers need to see the big picture and take into account all sorts of personal situations. Unfortunately for the candidates, this makes them look like they don’t care in most cases.
The GOP candidates will have their shot at the YouTube format in September. Several political items will have come to pass by then – a report/update of the status of the Iraq troop surge, a straw poll in Iowa – and a lot of current events that were the topics of the day for the Democrats will most likely have faded to the background (not that they should) – infrastructure underfunding, occupational safety and hazards.
The Democratic candidates, with the exception of Mike Gravel and I am not sure why, also had a forum at the AFL-CIO convention last evening. This particular forum was only broadcast on MSNBC and was unique in that it gave the feel of a political rally – despite Keith Olbermann’s (the irony of a former ESPN anchor moderating a debate at Soldier Field in Chicago was not lost on me) attempts to keep the crowd quiet. There were set questions and then questions from union members. While the GOP candidates are not likely to be invited to the AFL-CIO convention to a forum, I am certain that there were lessons to be learned from last night.
John Edwards had a person in the stadium to help point out his health care initiatives. Unfortunately, he could talk about the person but the cameras were not warned, or else, were not set up to show specific audience members.
As I mentioned, Mike Gravel, who has provided a certain comedic relief with his brisk answers and ways in previous debates, was not at this forum. I am not totally up on politcal news so I don’t know if this means he has dropped out of the race or he was not invited by AFL-CIO leaders to participate.
Dennis Kucinich managed to routinely, throughout the forum, whip the crowd into an applause frenzy – much to Olbermann’s dismay and disbelief that they would disobey the “rules.” He also sounded much like the Democratic candidates of old who were union chosen, back in the day when the union could pick the candidate.
Hillary Rodham Clinton played on her being a female for all to see. I found it rather amazing that she thought saying “she was their girl” – paraphrased, of course – was a good statement. She did, though, sound much more presidential than others on the stage – from my years of loving to watch The West Wing, having the “presidential voice.”
All in all, neither of these two debates/forums should have helped anyone make up their minds as to who the best candidate is. It is still way too early for that. The timing, in contrast to when the GOP will at least follow with its YouTube debate, should have provided valuable lessons for those GOP candidates that were willing to watch and learn.