I meant to blog on this last night, but in all honesty, I turned on the Detroit Tigers game around 9:30 and promptly fell asleep on my couch. Oops. So, a day late, but certainly not a dollar short, here are some thoughts on last night's CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate, which for those that missed it or haven't read about it, involved the candidates being asked questions from everyday Americans, submitted as videos on YouTube.
The format I thought was really interesting. Sure, a lot of the questions were the same ones we've seen before, some were silly (like the virtual snowman worrying about global warming) and the candidates vignettes weren't really necessary, but overall, it was fresh, and unique, and with it being so early before the primaries start, we needed a debate like this. And I do think the format was useful because it allowed questions to be asked that a normal moderator may have been uncomfortable asking (such as the question directed to Barack Obama about whether he was "black" enough). As for Anderson Cooper, who was moderator, he was hit and miss. As Chuck Todd wrote on MSNBC's live-blog of the debate, he really didn't let the candidates "debate" among themselves at all. But, on the other hand, he kept the trains on the track, not letting candidates get too far from the questions (a few times re-asking the original question after a candidate went into a stump speech having little to do with the question at issue) and even told Mike Gravel "No" when Gravel asked for more time.
And, before discussing the individual candidates (though, I guess this technically is about a specific person) but Mike Gravel has to go. He's not doing the Democrats any good at these debates, he continues to make Joe Biden look tranquil (and that takes some talent), and he's really just a punchline at this point. At least Dennis Kucinich has an issue (the War) that he really cares about and is trying to get people talking about. I have no idea why or what Gravel is doing. Other than making the rest of the Democrats look bad.
The mainstream media continues to praise Hillary Clinton performances in the debates, and in many ways, she is very polished and knows exactly what to say and how to say it. But I thought Brack Obama did very very well and continues to improve each debate he's in. His answers on Iraq (posted below) were right on the mark, both in terms of attacking Hillary for approving the war to begin with, and blasting Tony Snow for defending the Iraqi government's vacation by explaining it is "hot" in Iraq. And this whole controversy where Clinton is calling him 'naive' for saying he would meet with certain foreign leaders is just ridiculous. The obvious aim of the question was whether an Obama administration or a Clinton administration would meet with the Fidel Castro's of the world, not whether Barack and Fidel would head to a Washington Nationals game together. Was Clinton smart for answering it the way she did (by saying she would wait before holding any meetings herself to make sure she wasn't being used simply as a propaganda piece) which made Obama look too eager and inexperienced? Sure. But, the whole issue is a non-issue as far as I am concerned. Now, to Obama's great answers on the war.
Obama's answer on whether or not he would work for the minimum wage was also spot on. When the question was asked, I immedietely yelled out at my TV, "of course they would, they can afford to. That's the whole point." And that's how Obama answered the question, wisely.
As for who else really impressed me, Joe Biden continues to show that he may be the smartest candidate of the bunch. A bit angry at times, but while everyone else talks about getting out of Iraq, Biden sounds like he actually knows how to get out of Iraq. On foreign policy, there is nobody better right now than Biden, and he sounds intelligent on the domestic issues too. He has no chance to be President, but should a Democrat win in 2008, I couldn't think of a better candidate for Secretary of State. His campaign put together some highlights of last night's debate, worth checking out.
Anyways, interesting concept. Good television.