Well, I just saw the second presidential debate last night and the main thing that struck me about it was just how boring it was. It may be that I was just tired or it may be that I’m suffering from Election 2008 overload but, after spending the whole day looking forward to the event, I spent a good portion of it splitting my attention between the TV and the internet. I think it’s something to do with the format. The term “Town Hall Debate” is misleading, to my mind. When I think of this term, I envision regular people confronting and challenging politicians forcing them to defend their positions. But all I saw last night were a few regular people politely asking really basic, sanitised versions of already sanitised questions that have been asked in the media over and over again and then allowing the candidates to individually give responses reminiscent to their stump speeches.

None of the audience challenged the candidates, the candidates generally only indirectly challenged each other, in a way that they can already do in separate speeches and as for Tom Brokaw, he may as well just have literally phoned it in. I don’t know how pundits could expect John McCain to thrash Barack Obama because the format didn’t allow for thrashings to be handed out by anybody. I could have debated either candidate in that format, whilst drunk and restricted to words of two syllables or less and not gotten thrashed. So it’s not surprising that one third of respondents in CBS’s focus group called it as a tie and the rest split for Obama but not by a huge margin.

Seriously, if the last debate is going to be like this, I want them to bring Biden and Palin back. Their debate was WAY more exciting and, somewhat surprisingly, for all the right reasons AND in spite of a format that was ostensibly more restrictive. Or what the hell, send in Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and Ron Paul to spice things up. If you’re going to involve ordinary voters in a political debate, maybe use the BBC TV show Question Time as a template. There, ordinary citizens pose the questions but they also follow up their own questions, they follow up the questions of others, they strongly challenge the views expressed by the politicians on the panel and generally add their two cents worth (or over here I guess it’s 1.2 pence worth). Meanwhile, the moderator, Jonathan Dimbleby, strongly challenges the politicians and the politicians strongly challenge each other.

So given all that, who did win? I guess Obama because of two things: firstly his composure as he focused calmly and clearly on the issues – while McCain talked about the need for a steady hand for The Presidency, Obama displayed it (plus he didn’t make any “that one” comments – probably not racist by McCain, but certainly a little disrespectful). Secondly, the fact that McCain needed to land some blows but didn’t will continue to make people more comfortable with the idea of Obama as President. But as regards undecided voters making a decision based on the substantive performances of the candidates, I don’t think Tuesday’s snoozefest will make a whole lot of difference.

  1. LuRain Penny says:

    Hi Sam,

    It was tedious, wasn’t it? They clearly don’t like each other, but can’t really get into a fist fight on camera, which is what I been waiting for.

    Did you read my idea – I think a jab of sodium pentathol followed by a nationally televised interview of uncensored public questions. I suppose there will have to be a bit of restriction, we don’t want to have any more boxer or brief discussions, yuck.

    It is getting scary, and the fear mongering is jetting skyward.
    This all part of the grand design, to take our eyes of possible voter fraud, already underway.

    You keep probing. It is you young ones going to have to deal with the mountain of crap we are leaving you.

    I have faith you’ll come out on top.

    Share, care and be aware.



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