The Debate Over The Debate

Frankly, there’s very few members of the mainstream media that I have a lot of confidence in.  It is odd, however, to see so much caterwauling amongst the members of the press over Wednesday night’s debate.

But it seems like it wasn’t much of a debate.  I did not watch it, but the track record this year so far has been sluggish when it comes to doing what I consider debating: you know, take a topic, each participant provides a viewpoint on the topic.  Should be pretty simple and direct.

And for that matter, most of what we’d expect to see in a debate can probably be gleaned from the candidates’ web sites… as we have been doing here at The Conservative Reader.  Or from news items, speeches, interviews.  One wonders how many times Hillary needs to say “we’re going to take some of your money away from you” before we get the point.

Presidential debates, especially in the Party Nomination Process, and especially this late in the process, are just not valuable now that we have the Internet and wall-to-wall cable/dish media overkill.  We might do better to start traipsing potential VP nominees  into the debate process  and get a look at them.

But what we’re getting (throughout the whole process, it seems) is a Press Conference with multiple participants.  You know about press conferences: that when members of the press can ask any stupid question they like (such as “Tell us about your relationship with Rev. Wright”) and nobody complains.  The press have a  lot more experience with press conferenced and lot less with real debates, so it’s understandable.  I’m pretty sure that journalists get their questions from rantings around the blogosphere anyway.  And yet I suspect the likes of Captain Ed, James Joyner, Michelle Malklin and others would do a better job of bringing valuable questions before the candidates.

And as if anyone, including the candidates, really care what the moderator asks anyhow.  The candidates are just going to trivialize the questions and answer the questions they came prepared to address (kind of like a press conference, eh?).

I think, however, that Gibson and Stephenopolis are getting a raw deal.  The questions they asked that were away from the issues were at least fairly current, unlike Tim Russert who is always digging up something from 10 years ago: “Sen. Clinton, you were once quoted as saying ‘That’s mine!  Give it back!’  Is that the kind of behavior we can expect from your administration?”  (Clinton’s response: “My days as First Lady are long behind me, Tim.”).

And the questions still included topics that were relevant to the real issues.  But clearly the “gotcha” show went on far too long, as even the audience jeered Gibson at the end of the program.

Maybe I’m wrong, but the debates within the parties are just not valuable past the first month or so in my opinion.  I’ll reserve judgment regarding the post-nomination debates.  But please, please, please, let’s not EVER have a debate like the one amongst the candidates for VP like the one we had in 1992 when Ross Perot ran for President and Vice Admiral James Stockdale (Perot’s running mate), who was way out of his league (and perhaps a little too old to be answering serious questions on TV), caused me to be embarrassed on his behalf.

Sister Toldjah and BitsBlog both provide a other, perhaps more comprehensive or thoughtful assessments of the current debate on the debate.

Hat tip to Memeorandum.

About the Author

Mr. Smith is the Publisher of The Conservative Reader. He is Partner/Owner of Ambrosia Web Technology as well as a Systems Architect for Wells Fargo. Art hold a degree in Computer Science from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and is a political blogger at the Des Moines Register. Art's views are purely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wells Fargo.


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