While browsing on Salon.com recently, I came across a really interesting (and well-written) piece by Michael Scherer, titled ‘What you missed while watching “Project Runway” ‘ (article dated Nov 16, 2007, site accessed Nov 16, 2007).
Scherer’s article is a minute-by-minute review of the moderated debate among Democratic presidential candidates that took place that same day. (The debate was held in Las Vegas and was moderated by Wolf Blitzer, in case anyone is interested.)
The article is unsparing and brutal regarding everyone involved, including Blitzer and the staff at CNN, who among other brillant ideas (see below) decided to start out the debate with a photo-op. Because, you know, us backward village idiots out here in the fly-over states have never seen a photo-op.
Here are some highlights from the article, which has to be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated.
2 to 6 minutes. A photo op happens. While the candidates pose onstage, the Blitz blows hot air with some of his correspondents about what America can expect — if the debate ever begins. On average, less than 1 percent of Americans watch these things. Now we know why.
Scherer makes a particularly good point about these debates in general when he writes (italics added):
11 minutes. Obama tries to explain why his plan does not mandate universal coverage. Then Clinton rebuts. But in this format neither is making much sense. The issue is too complex.
And while I’m not real fond of Joe Biden, I have to say his statement here is dead on.
17 minutes. Biden offers the most concise and eloquent explanation of his candidacy to date. “Let’s get to it, folks. The American people don’t give a darn about any of this stuff that’s going on up here,” he says. “This is not about experience. It’s not about change. It’s about action.” He continues, “Who among us is going to be able to, on Day One, step in and end the war? Who among us understands what to do about Pakistan? Who among us is going to pick up the phone and immediately interface with Putin and lay off Georgia because Saakashvili is in real trouble? Who among us knows what they’re doing? I have 35 years of experience.”
(On a side note, what has Biden done so far with his 35 years of experience? I don’t know off the top of my head, and if everyone else is like me, that doesn’t bode well for him.)
CNN gets savaged (and rightfully so, if Scherer’s reporting is correct):
73 to 79 minutes. The Blitz announces a commercial break to arrange chairs onstage. After the commercial break, Blitz announces a second consecutive commercial break, because CNN does not mind torturing its audience. Nearly seven minutes pass.
80 minutes. From here on in, the questions primarily come from the audience. CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux walks around with the mic, but her bright blue suit is the same color as the bright blue carpet, making her head look disembodied on the television.
In general, the debate sounded like everything I’ve read about the other debates: Clinton is still ahead, and the other candidates are trying to differentiate themselves from her and beat her on policy issues, which is hard to do since it’s really hard to get a straight answer out of Hillary Clinton about policy issues. Immigration and national security are still some of the hottest topics, with a lot of differences in opinion among candidates.
And then there was the oddball factor. Anything I’ve ever read about Kucinich makes him sound like one of those intellectual types who believes that the rest of us can see the way to light and harmony if someone just asks us the right questions that get us to think about the right things. I’d say that image is still pretty accurate, based on Scherer’s reporting:
24 minutes. The Blitz asks all the candidates if they will pledge to support the Democratic nominee, no matter what. Everyone agrees, except for Kucinich, who still looks pissed. “Only if they oppose war as an instrument of policy,” Kucinich says. This is sort of a fortune-cookie answer, but Kucinich may be saying he won’t support any of the other Democratic candidates, who all endorse the idea of using the military to pursue U.S. interests. The Blitz does not ask for clarification.
and then there’s this:
25 to 31 minutes. A conversation about immigration . . . And Kucinich just gets mad at Blitz all over again. “I take issue with your description of there being illegal immigrants,” Kucinich says. “There aren’t any illegal human beings.” This is another fortune cookie that the Blitz does not want to open.
And I’m with Blitzer on not opening that fortune cookie. No, Dennis, there aren’t any illegal human beings. But we’re not saying they’re illegal people, we’re saying that regardless of your feelings on whether they should be allowed to be here, right now they are people in a place they’re legally not supposed to be.
And here’s another Kucinich proverb:
112 to 125 minutes. . . . Kucinich says, “A president has to be a healer.”
All in all, a fascinating article about a debate that sounds like a real snoozer.