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October 5, 2004

Good Debate, Bad Commentary

You know, there were moments during the VP debate when I thought to do the live-blogging thing, but, well, the exchanges moved along. Moreover, I'm more of a big-picture guy, and I didn't want to miss something important while commenting about something interesting but ultimately inconsequential.

Both candidates behaved as would be expected; both have the strengths and weakness that one would expect. Therefore, it's difficult to know how those who haven't followed the whole shebang so closely will react. The after-debate commentary — which, from what little I've watched — confirms that the debate didn't throw any curves into the politics of the campaign: the commentators were able to layer their own spin.

What all this means in practical terms, I'm not sure. Some of the folks on Fox News just said that the debate means almost nothing. If it means anything, and if it does anything, perhaps it managed to help catch some voters who are just beginning to tune in up in their understanding of the dynamics of the race. They either agree with the administration's approaches, or they don't. They either began to smirk after John Edwards's twentieth usage of the phrase "we have a plan," or they didn't.

On the moderator, I agree with Michael Graham that Gwen Ifill — despite some stutters, some questions too catered to her own interests, and a couple of flubs (e.g., giving Edwards an extra round of response on one exchange) — really showed how the questions should be structured in a debate: putting each participant on the defensive.

Nonetheless, I can't help but wonder why Brit Hume isn't mediating one of these things. Wouldn't that be simply [pause] fair and balanced?

Posted by Justin Katz at October 5, 2004 10:59 PM

I would like to see the protocol enforced a little more. Specifically, when you move on to the next question, the speaker should not be allowed to address a previous question, thus getting the last word when not allowed. Cheney, of course, did not violate this protocol. Edwards, of course, did violate it, spending nearly half his opening time on the current question to address issues from the last question. Had I been the moderator, I would have cut him off and told him he had his opportunity and now needs to address the curent question only.

Posted by: c matt at October 6, 2004 3:41 PM