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Daily Digest: The Final CNN/YouTube Debate Link-Fest

BY Joshua Levy | Thursday, November 29 2007

The Final in a Series of CNN/YouTube Debate Link-Fests

  • So the Republicans have finally entered into the YouTube fray. There’s no turning back, guys! You’re officially part of the 21st century. In his roundup of the debate, The Washington Post’s Jose Antonio Vargas wrung this bizarre quote from debate executive producer David Bohrman. “This kind of participatory format is here to stay. Can you imagine going back?” Yes, the participatory format is here to stay, but we’re not sure CNN has anything to do with it. We’re hoping CNN makes some big changes if they’re going to keep doing these debates.

  • As we know, the public wasn’t invited to help choose which questions to ask the candidates; CNN was the sole selector. In fact, only two of the 40 most-viewed submissions were shown to the candidates. The producers needed their own bunker to make the right decisions, so they must have chosen broader, more meaningful questions than the public would have, right?

  • Nope. In fact, the range of questions was bizarrely narrow. As techPresident’s Micah Sifry quoted blogger Jason Rosenbaum this morning, who said, “A quick look at the important issues that were left out of this debate proves that CNN wasn’t out for discussion, it was out for infotainment.” But techPresident contributor David All sees the selection as evidence of CNN’s liberal bias. “The quick-and-short from those of us on the ground was that the CNN editorial process unfairly influenced the debate using its liberal, narrow perspective of what the GOP ‘represents’ to only choose those questions which focused primarily on: God, Guns, Gays, and Immigration,” David wrote after the debate. There was indeed a conspicuous absence of questions about health care, energy, the environment, and education, among other things. Perhaps it was David Bohrman’s stated desire to avoid liberal gotchas, but what exactly makes these “liberal” subjects? It’s doing conservatives a major disfavor to assume they’re not interested in health care, or education, or energy.

  • Among the top 40 most-viewed videos, however, nine were about health care, education, jobs, or environment, and eight were about guns, immigration, or religion. The other 23 concerned a smattering of topics, some of which had a conservative bent but most of which could have been asked of either party.

  • Then there’s the story of the gay General Keith Kerr who asked about gays in the military. It turns out he has worked with Hillary Clinton, and CNN was forced to send out a statement regretting his involvement. For this and other perceived biases and mistakes made by CNN, techPresident contributor Patrick Ruffini gave CNN an “F” and YouTube an “A.”

  • Conservative blogger Ed Morrisey didn’t agree with Ruffini and All about CNN. “Truthfully, this may have been one of the least “gotcha” and most substantive debates we’ve had this year,” he wrote, but he still criticized CNN for not checking the background of General Kerr.

  • The Election Geek is also tracking other conservative bloggers’ discoveries about Democratic questioners. Apparently, one questioner from last night is a John Edwards supporter, and another is apparently a Barack Obama supporter. If they’re not affiliated with the campaigns, I’m not sure this is a big deal, but it does seem like CNN failed to follow up on the questioners’ identities.

  • Despite all of the brouhaha about the format and execution, an actual debate among presidential candidates took place. Post-mortemists on the left and right and somewhere in between are almost universal in their acclaim for Mike Huckabee’s performance. The ongoing narrative about Huck on the left is reflected in Marc Cooper’s analysis on the Off The Bus. “[Huckabee] radiates a core decency that seems to be lacking from every other of his rivals and it’s starting to pay off for him big time,” Cooper writes. Plus, a weird poll cited by Todd Beeton at MyDD shows Huck winning big time.

  • Wired’s Sarah Lai Stirland did the saintly chore of reading all of the candidates’ liveblogs during the debate. Thankfully she summarizes them all for us, saving us hours of lost productivity. The long and short: Rudy Giuliani’s team didn’t liveblog (big shock there), our friend Becki Donatelli blogged for John McCain, and Chuck Norris hung out with Mike Huckabee’s team.

  • Oh, and look ma: no snowmen.

  • We had a VERY lively discussion during last night’s liveblog of the debate. Thanks to software from Cover It Live, it was possible for us to liveblog and interact with more than 150 readers in real time. It was great fun, and we’ll definitely be doing it again. Kudos to the Cover It Live team!

  • Also: don’t miss this profile of online liberal fundraiser whiz-kids ActBlue in the New York Times.

In Case You Missed It…

What’s the evidence that ads help major party candidates for the Presidency in early states? What’s the evidence that you need alot of money—as opposed to, say, a few million—to win a primary? Zephyr Teachout needs your help in researching the effect of ads on the money primaries.

The “YouTube debates” are neither real debates, nor a serious use of the internet’s potential, Micah Sifry argues. Worse, as blogger Jason Rosenbaum cogently argues, “By heavily moderating the questions, and by deliberately choosing silly, fluffy, or offbeat videos to show the nation, CNN is reinforcing the old media idea that the Internet entertains, but does not offer real, serious discussion or insight.” Instead, they want you to turn to the real “experts”…on CNN.

Micah gives his quick take on last night’s debate. It sure made for lively television, but was this a breakthrough for the internet’s role in politics?