You can view the three video questions CNN's editors have already chosen as samples. They're safe and easily answered queries about discrete issues--glorified index cards.** It looks like a long evening.
It's not too late for CNN to save its "unprecedented" format. The debate is a week away. Post all the competing videos on YouTube tomorrow afternoon in a way that easily lets viewers pick the most popular, and commit CNN to broadcast, say, 20 questions from the top 40 submissions at random. No gatekeeping. (There are presumably technical tricks to filter out ballot-box-stuffing by various campaigns, some of which are already trying to gin up submissions. If that can't be done, go with the viewer's selections anyway. Let's see the stuff the ballot-box-stuffers stuff. The ballot-stuffing competition would itself help build excitement.)
A no-gatekeeper format really would be unprecedented, and will terrify the candidates. Politicians know the sorts of questions CNN editors pick. They can handle those questions. But who knows what an army of partisan geeks in their basements will select? Even if the questions aren't penetrating in themselves, we'll get to see the candidates react to unpredictable events, which will be revealing even if the questions themselves are stupid.
Anderson Cooper can always ask follow-up questions and calm things down. He's good at that.
**--One of the sample videos is mildly obnoxious in a way that would make a CNN editor think it has "attitude." Not a virtue. ... 2:45 P.M. link
An Al-Qaida cell in Hollywood? 2:58 A.M.
kf--Still Solution-Oriented! PoliPundit reports on an email from Roy Beck of Numbers USA on a possible incremental, enforcement-only immigration initiative:
I can tell you from the last six days of our meetings with several Democratic Members of the House, with a number of their Republican counterparts, with fellow advocacy groups and with top Senate GOP staffers, there is very strong growing sentiment that it is time to remove the jobs magnet for illegal immigration.
The overwhelming favorite appears to be to make the "Basic Pilot" electronic workplace verification system mandatory for all businesses with contracts with the federal government.
Basic Pilot has problems--it catches illegal workers using fake Social Security numbers, but not necessarily illegal workers who've falsely adopted the identity of real people with real Social Security numbers. Swift meatpacking company participates in Basic Pilot, yet when federal authorities raided Swift plants last year about 10 percent of the work force was arrested on immigration violations.
But all employee-verification schemes seem to have holes in them--even a "biometric" national I.D. wouldn't necessarily stop someone from falsely obtaining a biometric card by claiming they were someone else (and producing fake papers to that effect). You would think a) Basic Pilot at least raises the cost of falsely applying for work, thereby discouraging it and weakening the "jobs magnet" for illegals; and b) if enough illegal job applicants had to resort to identity theft, it would impact so many people that mechanisms would be created to inhibit it. (Why not routinely contact people whose Social Security number might have been stolen, as flagged by a computer the same way a computer flags possible phony credit card purchses--for example, because two people are using the same number, or because it's being used in what looks like the wrong city, etc.?) Requiring the Basic Pilot system for all new hires seems a reasonable--and bipartisan--place to start. ... .
P.S.: I don't know enough about Beck to know whether his email, in an attempt to rev up his troops, exaggerates the prospects for passing a Basic Pilot mandate. I do know his organization was highly effective in this year's immgration debate. Robert Pear says so. ...
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