Anorak News | CNN-YouTube Presidential Deflect: America Needs Paxman

CNN-YouTube Presidential Deflect: America Needs Paxman

by | 24th, July 2007

hilary-clinton.jpgIT will take a lot more than YouTube to make US presidential debates interesting.

At least that’s the impression TV commentators gave after the Democrats’ much anticipated experiment with YouTube last night.

The CNN-YouTube Presidential Debate was supposed to inject passion, even a bit of truthiness, into the often staid debates.

“When a health-care question is asked by a dying person,” reasoned the New York Daily News TV guide ahead of the debate, “there’s no way the question can be deflected easily.”

As it happens, the debate proved that such questions can be deflected easily, leaving New York’s television reviewers to mull over the impact of the video questions rather than the importance of the Presidential hopefuls’ answers.

“There were serious questions about Iraq, health care and race, but it was not the phrasing of the questions that made a difference, it was the visual impact of the people asking them: a woman with cancer who pulled off her wig to request affordable preventive care, a man in a wheelchair holding up signs to ask what the candidates would do for the disabled,” writes Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times.”

The star of the night appears to have been an animated snowman who asked about global warming.

But the problem for the audience was that the questions were often more entertaining than the stale responses from candidates. Where’s the drama? Where’s the passion? Where’s the finger pointing?

America doesn’t need YouTube. It needs Paxman.

Daily News TV critic David Hinckley says that although the showdown was billed as “an opportunity for the American people to ask direct questions that would force direct answers,” it rarely lived up to expectations.

“A good 95% of the time, they did what they do with most uncomfortable questions: made a fleeting acknowledgment of the actual intent, then shifted into a safe, well-tested campaign speech from somewhere in the same ballpark,” writes Hinckley.

The Times’ Stanley agreed: “It was certainly fresh and more fun to watch, but the taped questions and canned candidate messages worked against the spontaneity that is supposed to be the point of a live debate.”

Put simply, the pols employed the ABC’s of their trade. Acknowledge (the question). Bridge (to what you really want to say). Communicate (the message).

The New York Post didn’t just fault the format. It shot the messenger. D.C. Bureau Chief Charles Hurt blamed CNN for picking out lame questions that were “by and large suspiciously just like the ones that a room full of journalists inside the Beltway could have come up with.”

“The “debate” wasn’t illuminating or even entertaining,” writes Hurt. “Instead of sharp, pointed exchanges, we got another rambling forum with all the depth of a beauty pageant.”

This morning’s newspapers tried to get worked up over one of the debate’s answers: the difference Clinton and Obama would take in talking to dictators. Obama said he would talk to dictators like Castro within a year of taking office—Clinton said she’d talk to dictators, but not so fast.

But even the papers seemed unconvinced. There was much more juicy copy to be had in other places, like New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s political mess and the death threats against an NBA referee caught match fixing.

As Anorak has noted in the past, this presidential race is already something of a snoozefest. It’s going to take a bit more than YouTube to bring it to life.

Posted: 24th, July 2007 | In: Reviews Comments (2) | TrackBack | Permalink