The Spectacle Blog

Post Mortem

By on 11.29.07 | 9:33AM

Last night’s was the first debate this year that I have been able to watch more or less in its entirety, so I don’t have near the familiarity that others here do, but some thoughts: The format is beneath contempt. The tendency of almost every YouTuber to make his question an advertisement for himself was sickening on every level – that the questioners think this appropriate when addressing potential presidents; that CNN would encourage it; and that the candidates themselves would stand there and take it without so much as flinching. And the cheering- and booing-sections are appalling as well, taking the focus off of the substance of the candidates’ answers and instead on who is “scoring.” Obviously, I’m way behind the curve in this new age of debates, but I honestly can’t believe it has come to this. 

As for the candidates, nobody was great, but I’d say Romney had the best night, even with his share of shaky moments. He seemed less like a suit than he has in the past, and he was both aggressive and controlled. McCain was strong throughout, but he didn’t get enough time, and so almost seemed invisible at points. That’s another indictment of the format, because every time McCain spoke, one was reminded that he is the closest thing we have to an Eisenhower. Fred Thompson was lifeless, vague, and uninspiring. I don’t know why he is running and I don’t think he does, either. Giuliani was okay, but seemed to be a little off most of the night; but he was also the candidate most in the line of fire throughout. As for Huckabee, there’s something creepy to me about his charm that I assume will reveal itself if he hangs around long enough. His self-aggrandizing, self-pitying answer on education benefits for illegals would have fit in nicely at a Democratic debate. Finally, I agree with James P. that Ron Paul acquitted himself well for the most part. 

All of the candidates missed an opportunity to fly-swat the questioner who asked what the U.S./>/> could do to improve its image in the Muslim world. Duncan Hunter did best by saying that he would never apologize for the U.S./>/>, but the others groveled. They should have flipped the question and asked: what can Islamic-Americans do to improve relations here (like, say, denouncing CAIR)/>/>? Likewise, the question about why blacks don’t vote Republican could easily have been turned around to ask, Why are blacks still voting Democratic after decades of failed policies? Instead, the candidates walked on egg shells – and as long as they do, the perception that Republicans have something to apologize for will persist, as will the Democrats’ 90 percent share of the black vote.

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