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CNN/YouTube Debate: Final, Random, Biased Thoughts

The debate is over and the group is back on a conference call, ready to be debriefed by the Clinton campaign. There’s a surprise guest scheduled to talk to the national throng, but a fairly heady debate breaks out while this group waits for the breathless campaign recap.

The debate is over and the group is back on a conference call, ready to be debriefed by the Clinton campaign. There’s a surprise guest scheduled to talk to the national throng, but a fairly heady debate breaks out while this group waits for the breathless campaign recap.

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The conversation, which nearly devolves into a fight, is inspired by one of the YouTube questions: Does it bother anyone that only two families — the Bushes and the Clintons — have inhabited (or want to) the office of the President for the last decade and a half? The issue of dynasty bothers one member of the group, but not others. (An intense discussion of the meaning of legacy follows, along with some unprintable comments about the current President.)

The group abandoned the call entirely — they’ve been on hold for a while — in order to debate the debate, a discussion which at time got passionate. Which leads me to one of the big winners of the night — the questions themselves.

It seems that the questions excited the group more than the candidates. The true YouTubish fare – the singing tax guy, for example – didn’t get much love. But sincere questions, like the young woman who wanted to know why there were no nationwide standards for processing votes at the polls, or the man who wanted to know if Senator Clinton expected that she’d be taken seriously by Muslim countries that have alternate views on women’s rights, impressed the group. These questions inspired long, heartfelt side conversations that spanned everything from modern campaign tactics to slave reparations to whether women were unfairly dismissive of other women candidates. For a liberal enclave, the debate was surprisingly varied, and in times quite emotional. In fact, the group did a better job than the candidates did in baring their souls and making their cases.

The other big winner was YouTube, which managed to solidify its brand by forcing the campaigns to create their own “YouTube” style videos which were interspersed between the question and answers – as if being able to be authentically YouTube was proof of something substantive. (FYI: My group just didn’t think Biden’s effort was true ‘Tube.)

I didn’t think a candidate emerged as a true winner, the structure didn’t allow it. There were only a few truly unscripted moments, and the front runners all managed to pull off some emotional highpoints without shooting themselves in the foot.

But according to this (admittedly biased) group, the winner was Hillary Clinton. Their random thoughts:

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* She articulated a viewpoint, didn’t sloganeer but presented the thought process behind her viewpoint. Winner hands down.

* She seemed the most moderate – the rest seemed like left wing lunatics to me.

* Barack Obama continued to make no impression on me. I think he’s clearly very smart, but just not ready.

* Yeah, but she won by not losing – it wasn’t a great showing for anyone.

*She doesn’t make a caricature of herself. Obama doesn’t say much, so that’s the reason he’s number two.

* Bill Richardson is quite possibly the least likeable person I’ve ever seen on television.

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*Biden is smart and incredibly capable, but comes across as angry. (The group graciously agreed that Biden could be Secretary of State.)

*The group expressed compassion for Obama: He’s failing to meet the unrealistic expectations of the crowd. Clinton has the reverse problem of being assumed as unlikeably – so she surprises and delights by being even mildly funny or warm. (A fight breaks out about whether Clinton is mildly funny or terribly funny.)

*”I’m mildly offended by the way Clinton is being marketed by her team as “a compassionate friend” – I’m really impressed when she’s being strong on the issues, not being positioned as a woman who may or may not have baked cookies.”

As I unplugged, the group was still talking.

Looking forward to the view from the Republican side, when the CNN YouTube Republican debate airs in September. (I’ll be hunting for a Facebook Republican group near me.) But unless the structure of the actual debate is different, I’m expecting that any group of viewers will learn more about each other than they will about the candidates.

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