Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Opinionator

July 24, 2007, 6:03 pm
Everybody’s a Winner! (YouTube, Part 2)
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , ,

So, other than YouTube, who won the debate last night? Scanning the blogosphere, it seems that if not everyone found something to like about everyone, at least someone found something to like about each one. “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s dominating CNN/YouTube debate performance tonight flipped the script on America. Or it should have,” says Douglas Burns at Iowa Independent. “No longer should the question be: Can a woman be president? With her fourth in a series of crushing Democratic debate performances, the question everyone in America should be asking themselves: What have we been missing by eliminating more than half our population from the application process for this job since the late 18th century?”

Chris Cillizza at the The Fix feels Clinton did well, but that John Edwards broke through by making “a compelling case as to why his life experience and willingness to propose bold solutions made him the right choice for voters looking to make a clean break with business as usual in Washington. His performance for the first 118 minutes of the debate was enough to overcome the foible of criticizing the jacket Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) was wearing. Why do that?”

While Barack Obama received a lot of criticism (mostly from Ms. Rodham-Clinton) for saying he would “meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries,”the Republican pollster Frank Luntz did a minipoll for Fox News that gave the Illinois senator some good news: “We took a group of 30 South Carolina Democrats and they watched the entire two hours. They came in here supporting Hillary Clinton, a plurality did, and they left here supporting Barack Obama.”

Jim Geraghty at NRO liked Joe Biden: “If there is justice in this world, Biden’s comment about voting for a recent appropriations bill that included upgrades for military vehicles to protect from IEDs, lambasting Hillary, Obama, and Dodd for voting against it, would be the sound-bite of the night. He points out the actual consequences of their pandering to the antiwar base of the party.”

Similarly, Ben Adler at Tapped was most struck by “Bill Richardson’s shrewd answer that he’d get the lesbian couple from Brooklyn ‘everything I think is politically feasible’ thus hinting that he has no problem with full marriage equality but avoiding taking the political risk of saying so outright.”

And the gang at MSNBC’s first read felt that another longshot, Chris Dodd, “with the limited time he got, was strong as well.”

Further to the fringes, Lynn Sweet at Huffington Post thinks that Dennis Kucinich was “candid and pointed, connected the dots between global warring and global warming.”

So, if I’m counting correctly, that makes seven candidates covered, which leaves us with only Mike Gravel. Mike Gravel compliments, anyone? O.K., if nobody else will step up, let me just say the former Alaska senator has likely shown a more, uhm, original grasp of what YouTube is all about this campaign than any other candidate. Just check out “Rock” and “Fire” and tell me whether, if this whole president thing doesn’t work out, he might not have a future as a brooding art student.

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July 24, 2007, 12:56 pm
Medium the Message?
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , ,

O.K., presidential politics entered the YouTube era last night, and everybody has an opinion — ­ not about the candidates, of course, but about the format.
John Aravosis at Americablog was impressed:

The video thing worked, and Anderson did a good job, especially at going after the candidates for not answering the questions. It’s one thing to simply say “you didn’t answer the question,” and quite another to do it in a way that’s actually forceful and might just get them to say something more. Cooper did the latter.

Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof disagrees, saying it “was pretty much the same as all the other previous events — a joint press conference between the eight Democratic candidates on a stage.” Still, he says, “while it had the distinct odor of gimmickry, most of the questions were worth asking and occasionally pointed. The candidates showed their ability to take an unrehearsed question and turn it into one of their standard stump speeches without too much effort, so if you want to give them points for that, I suppose that’s to their credit.”

“A significant number of questioners were people of color and/or addressed issues of race and class, and I was pleasantly surprised,” writes Spencer Overton. “Perhaps because of the digital divide, one might have assumed that this debate would have overlooked issues critical to people of color. That was not the case.”

Andrew Sullivan, in a surprising populist mode, says that “if you’re sick of people like me on television, or worse, then the direct questions from regular voters and non-voters must have been a breath of extremely fresh air (there’s another asthmatic metaphor). I was fearing it would be lame. It wasn’t.”

For Steve M. at No More Mr. Nice Blog, it simply whetted the appetite for the Republican version of the debate in the fall: “The YouTube Democratic debate didn’t do much for me, but it did whet my appetite for the GOP YouTube debate that’ll happen on September 17 — if only because many of the questioners last night struck me as precisely the sort of disgruntled outsiders Rudy Giuliani used to have arrested when he was mayor of New York, when he wasn’t denouncing them as mentally disturbed.”

Ann Althouse is also looking ahead, with advice on getting your clip in to the Republican field in September:

Now that people have seen the videos — and which videos CNN chooses — it should have an effect on the quality of the next set of videos. What are the lessons? You can do humor and you can speak through animation or puppetry as long as you ask a dead serious question, like that snowman did. It helps to personify the question, like those lesbians or the man with dead soldiers in his his family. And it seems to work to sound a little inept or too casual in the first second and a half, but then quickly get out a clear question. They also obviously want questions in the same basic areas they’d hit if they were writing their own questions, so you might choose something boring — like Social Security — that not too many other people will do but that CNN will think has to get in. Good luck.

So, the key to becoming an official inquisitor in an Internet debate is to imitate the “boring” network reporters? Hmmm, so much for the YouTube revolution.

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