Putting Patrick’s enthusiasms below aside, how many snowmen and talking Abe Lincolns will show up tonight? The debasement of political debating has been ongoing for a long time, but the entry of the animated into the carnival marked a new low at the first YouTube debate, and I don’t expect much more tonight. (And I hope all the republicans are willing to call a stupid question a stupid question if one arrives in the form of a talking Gorgo etc.) I asked Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff on yesterday’s show which candidate’s answer he recalled from the first debate, and of course he couldn’t recall any answer. That’s because the silliness and absurdity of the questions crowded out everything else. (Update: From his voluntary exile at the WeeklyStandard.com, Dean agrees.)
The manufactured hoopla around tonight’s gimmicks and other made-for-television stages has obscured how badly served the electorate has been by MSM’s political correctness in extending invites to almost anyone who demanded one while failing to arrange what would have been most useful. Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wyoming, Nevada, and Florida will almost certainly cast their ballots without their voters having had the opportunity to watch even one face to face conversation/debate between Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney or between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.
This is how they were set up:
Chicago Ills. July 24, 1858
My Dear Sir
Will it be agreeable to you to make an arrangement for you and myself to divide time and address the same audiences during the present canvass? Mr. Judd who will hand you this is authorized to receive your answer; and if agreeable to you to enter into the terms of such arrangement.
Your Obt. Servt
and then this reply:
From Stephen A. Douglas to Abraham Lincoln, July 30, 1858
Bement, Piatt Co. Ill.
July 30th, 1858
Your letter, dated yesterday,2 accepting my proposition for a joint discussion at one prominent point in each Congressional district as stated in my previous letter was received this morning.
The times and places designated are as follows:
Ottowa, … LaSalle Co, … August … 21st … 1858
Freeport, … Stevenson Co. … ” … 27th … ”
Jonesboro’, … Union Co. … September … 15 ” … ”
Charleston, … Coles Co. … ” … 18 ” … ”
Galesburg, … Knox Co. … October … 7 ” … ”
Quincy, … Adams Co. … ” … 13 ” … ”
Alton, … Madison Co. … ” … 15 ” … ”
I agree to your suggestion that we shall alternately open and close the discussion. I will speak at Ottowa one hour, you can reply, occupying an hour and a half, and I will then follow for half an hour. At Freeport you shall open the discussion and speak one hour, I will follow for an hour and a half and you can then reply for half an hour. We will alternate in like manner at each successive place.
Y’r ob’t serv’t,
S. A. Douglas
In 150 years we have come a long way, and the empowerment of snowmen is the result. When Steven Grove of YouTube attempted to filibuster through an interview on yesterday’s show, he demonstrated that there is no “breakthrough” behind the YouTube debates, just slick selling of a web site.
The geatest debates in our history had no major role for the crowd or journalists at all. So 5,000 or 50,000 or 500,000 questions get submitted from a nation of 300,000,000 –so what? The issues aren’t any different. The challenges posed by a nuclear Iran or an uptick in the earth’s temperature don’t sharpen in our mind when posed by a kid with a video camera dressed in a Spiderman suit.
But the idea of serious answers to important questions is debased by the carnival, and it will be Anderson Cooper’s job tonight to try and keep the carnival from degrading everyone involved in it. (What do you think Putin, Ahmadinejad, and assorted dictators and bosses around the world think of snowmen questions?) And let’s see if CNN’s “objectivity” shines through in the question selection.
In my interview with him yesterday, Rudy Giuliani told me that he believed he could do a better job as president than Governor Romney. That’s the calim of all of these candidates –that they lead better than all the other candidates. Here’s how Rudy put it:
I have great respect for Governor Romney, and I’m sure he has the same for me. I campaigned for him. I was one of the last people with him the night before he got elected, campaigning for him, walking through the streets of Boston, and campaigned with him several times during that campaign, supported him. But the reality is I believe I could do a better job. I think when you compare our records as Mayor and Governor, you get two different pictures of somebody that was able to do the impossible in New York, and then I think you would come to a different conclusion about Governor Romney’s record. So I think I’m better prepared to do the impossible, meaning to end illegal immigration…
Debates help voters only if they help voters determined which of the candidates in fact “could do a better job.” There is simply no argument that the ability to reply to a talking snowman has any bearing on the awesome resbonsibilites of the presidency.