Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The GOP YouTube debate, and the controversy surrounding it

This is a subject that has had a decent amount of attention this past week. While the media doesn't seem concerned with it, or mentions it in a minor passing thought, the blogs have almost erupted in a war over it. It's been noted on Captain's Quarters today, and a possible solution has been presented. This is what the Captain said:

The Republican reluctance to engage in the scheduled September YouTube debate has created a fierce debate in the blogosphere, including something of a civil war at Hugh Hewitt's Townhall blog. Hugh himself has adamantly insisted that Republican candidates eschew the substance less spectacle of the YouTube/CNN enterprise as a media setup. Patrick Ruffini, his co-blogger, insists that a refusal will show an unwillingness to engage directly with citizens. I argued that the YouTube debate amounted to a political equivalent of the game show Let's Make A Deal, while Rick Moran casts it as a test of political courage. Michelle Malkin and Mark Steyn agree with Rick, while Jasmius at Heading Right says the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot.

Clearly, though, we have competing interests here and everyone has something right in this debate. The Republicans have to do better in reaching out directly to voters. In fact, given the real and/or perceived hostility of the national media towards the GOP, it behooves the Republicans to find ways around the media filter. The question is whether the CNN/YouTube structure allows them to do it.

The flaw in pursuing the debate as it CNN structured it for the Democrats is that CNN chose the questions. Even Joe Biden complained about that selection during the debate, calling the final question -- a demand for each candidate to say one thing good and one thing bad about the candidate to their left -- a "ridiculous exercise" as he answered it. A review of the
transcript shows that the actual questions held little substance and gave little information to voters about the candidates or their positions.

So what's the solution? How can we engage voters in a national forum through the New Media, while keeping the debate substantive and serious? I have a simple solution: have CNN cede the editorial/selection process to the New Media, in the form of the blogosphere.

CNN would ask bloggers to form a committee to review the YouTube entries. Since this debate is a Republican primary event, the bloggers should probably represent that segment of the electorate -- primarily Republicans, but perhaps with independent/centrist representation as well. The committee would review all of the YouTube entries and narrow them down to around 20, through whatever process and criteria to which these bloggers agree. They would also agree to the order in which the questions would be asked.

How does this solve the argument? It removes CNN from any responsibility for the question selection, shielding them from bias allegations. It puts the onus on the New Media to act responsibly in its question selection. This mechanism truly would make the candidates accountable directly to the people who will vote for them in the primary races. The candidates would have no excuses to avoid this debate, either.

CNN has engaged the blogosphere in innovative ways before. If CNN and YouTube agree to this process, I would find the result fascinating -- and expect full participation from Republican candidates.

This was an issue that had Thomas on one side, Marcie on the other, and eventually had Thomas reversing himself after he heard a number of the questions. If nothing else, it's not as though they didn't hammer this one out, and according to what I've heard, Thomas was completely unwilling to give in until he heard the questions, and realized that CNN would definitely be biased in choosing the questions. In short, the questions would lack any sort of serious substance, and would likely be used for a "gotcha soundbite" by the mainstream media. So, I see where they are coming from.

On the other hand, I can also see where Messrs. Ruffini and Steyn are coming from, as well as Ms. Malkin. Say what you will, but if they opt to skip this debate it will not look good in the public's eyes; a party afraid to engage the average citizen -- listening and responding to their queries. So, what is the GOP to do?

The Captain has a sound idea. If the questions were chosen by bloggers -- center-right bloggers, to be sure -- then CNN could avoid the charges of bias and agenda journalism. It would fall to the team of bloggers compiled to pick the best, most substantive questions. The candidates cold avoid any of the nuttiness that Thomas cited (such as the young miss wanting to know when another commission would be establish to determine why Building 7 of the WTC complex fell; pure "truther" garbage that has no place in such a debate) and hopefully focus on the pressing issues coming up in the future.

What are the plans we have to deal with Iran, and prevent them from achieving nuclear weapons?

Our relations with North Korea, and what will the repercussions be should they go back to constructing nuclear weapons?

Will we watch Libya now that Sarkozy has reached a deal to build a nuclear reactor for Muammar Qaddafi?

What contingency would they have in place should the Musharraf regime fall to radical Islamicists?

On the domestic side, what is to be done about Social Security?

Will the tax system be revamped, or will we continue with the same outdated, unfair system?

These are substantive questions. They're not off-the-wall or flaky. these are the sorts of questions that should be asked of the people wishing to be president. We want real answers, not a thirty-second soundbite. I would like to add that while the Captain has an excellent idea, I agree with him on the amount of questions. Twenty to twenty-five questions would be plenty, and the candidates would actually have a minute or two to respond.

If the debate were held in such a fashion, I'm sure that not only would the impending "civil war" amongst the center-right bloggers would be over, but the candidates would be willing to embrace such a medium. Let's face facts here: We take these sorts of things far more seriously than the Democrats do. There is no reason why the candidates should fear what the bloggers come up with in terms of the YouTube questions. We're not looking for a "gotcha" moment. We're looking at who will handle helming this nation for the next four years. They can't be insulated from the public, and the public must know that these are people that can relate to their lives, their problems, and their concerns.

Is there a chance that a nutty question could be thrown out there? A slim one, yes, but it would be worth it, in all honesty, to prove that this side of the blogosphere is serious. And it would be an ideal moment for the candidates to recognize that this election will be unlike any we have ever witnessed, for the "trench warfare" in the election will be conducted on the Internet. We need only look to the one potential candidate who has embraced the alternative media more than any other, and the supporters that this sort of appeal has generated for him.

Sabrina McKinney

ADDENDUM: 2:05 PM AZ time ... Sabrina posted this up about two hours ago, and given our busy day with friends in town, we've been a little busy to handle the site. TY Sabrina for keeping up where we slack.

We both read this piece with interest. It seems to be a viable compromise. It also raises the legitimacy of the center-right blogosphere when it comes to the GOP candidates. Furthermore, the GOP candidates would have nothing to fear from the center-right assembling the the questions from the YouTube entries, and choosing the order they're asked in.

As the controversy was first started on Hugh Hewitt's site between him and Patrick Ruffini, both should be among the bloggers chosen to assemble the questions. We also nominate Michelle Malkin, Captain Ed, Rick Moran, K-Lo, J-Pod, Rich Lowery, and Mark Steyn to participate in choosing the questions.

Both sides interests would be met. The questions would be substantive in intellect, and the GOP avoids looking fearful of the public. CNN can still serve as host and time-keeper, and avoid any claims of bias. Plus, as Sabrina noted, if the center-right chooses the questions and they cap the amount, the candidates would get far more time to give a solid, substantive answer as opposed to a soundbite.

If this is agreed upon, we will stand by the decision. It should be offered not only to CNN, but to every candidate on the GOP side. If both sides approve, the center-right analysts should begin work immediately in choosing the questions.

Publius II


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