Bloggers deconstruct the CNN/YouTube debate.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
July 24 2007 6:20 PM

YouDebate

Bloggers ask whether the first CNN/YouTube debate was a boon or a bust, and liberal über-blogger Markos Moulitsas finds himself with a bevy of conservative supporters.

YouDebate: Barack Obama danced around the question of whether he is "black enough" with a joke about trying to catch a cab in Manhattan, and Dennis Kucinich braved a question from a snowman. So it went in Monday night's CNN/YouTube debate, which featured questions uploaded to the video-sharing site. Bloggers disagree on whether the format was a positive or a pointless exercise. (Watch the questions and the responses; read the full debate transcript.)

Conservative Andrew Sullivan congratulates CNN: "I was fearing it would be lame. It wasn't. .... [Candidates] dodged anyway. But it was more obvious. That's a step forward."John Podhoretz calls it "far and away the best of the Democratic debates" in the conservative National Review's The Corner blog. And at liberal TPM Café, Eric Kleefeld and T.W. Farnam write: "This debate had many of the same sorts of questions we've seen in traditional, reporter-driven debates, and some of the same pre-rehearsed answers we're used to seeing from the candidates. The key difference, however, was that the questions from everyday people, submitted online, gave the questions a more genuine, human element, putting the candidates on the spot." Also check out Time media critic James Poniewozik's smart analysis at his TunedIn blog. He praises the format for the "added edge of forcing the candidate to directly confront someone invested in the answer."

However, Jeff Jarvis at PrezVid, a blog tracking the election through YouTube videos, is "sorely disappointed." On Sunday, he shared his hopes that the debates "could fundamentally change the dynamics of politics in America." But after the event, he wrote that CNN wasted the opportunity by picking crummy questions: "I have no doubt—no doubt—that we, the people, would have done a better job picking the questions than CNN did. … This should have been a debate held online: candidates answering questions directly without the need for CNN, Anderson Cooper, or their cameras." Steve Bryant at ReelPopBlog counters: "Simply put: If we'd left the choosing to the view counts, we'd have gotten silly pap"—though he's not wild about the format either. He continues, "Of course Jeff is upset. The truth is that a broadcast medium like TV will always dilute the power of YouTube. … Here's another simple truth: National debates among eight primary candidates are silly."

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Elizabeth Wilner at The Politco offers another gloss on the debate's significance: "In order to catch the attention of electorally crucial younger voters at this early stage of the race, candidates must actively engage in the latest developments in technology. Just as the chosen venue of Charleston, S.C., provided a shortcut for the eight Democrats to appeal to African-American voters, the YouTube format offered an entrée to another key constituency: Americans aged 18 to 30."

Hate the YouTube generation and the narcissism it stands for? Read Wonkette's three- part live-blog from last night's festivities. The gist: "YouTubers Are Idiots."

Read more bloggers on the YouTube debate. John Dickerson reviews the debate 's for Slate. Also, check out viewer comments at Anderson Cooper's CNN blog and video responses at YouTube. Or submit your own video question for the upcoming Republican debate.

Kos célèbre: Conservative blogger John Bambenek, who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and contributes to Blogcritics, has filed a Federal Election Comission complaint against prominent lefty blog DailyKos, "alleg[ing] that they operate as a political committee and are therefore subject to FEC rules." Other bloggers rush to defend Markos Moulitsas & Co., their own politics be damned.

Labeling Bambenek the "Wanker of the Year," DailyKos' Adam B points out that the FEC has considered the issue and concluded that bloggers are exempt from regulation. The money quote: "Indeed, as FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub told Salon.com two years ago … 'People like Red State [a prominent conservative blog] or Kos clearly fall under the media exemption ... Practically all bloggers—I can't think of one who wouldn't—would fall under the media exemption or the volunteer. And that's if we do nothing, if we don't change the rules at all.' "

Conservative blog Redstate has fought this fight once, along with Kos, leading liberal blogger Duncan Black at Eschaton, and others. "I (and others) testified to the FEC," writes Black, aka Atrios. "I learned more than I ever wanted to about campaign finance law and FEC regulations and rulings. I learned to have a healthy distrust of most of the 'reformer' groups. I also learned to have a bit of faith in the process, as ultimately the FEC commissioners went from not understanding the issue and potentially issuing a very horrible ruling to understanding it and issuing a very good ruling."

No bureaucratic regulation can trump the Bill of Rights, says David Freddoso at The Corner. "Freedom of speech—especially political speech—is our God-given right, as the founding documents of our nation attest. … [N]o good conservative can make a justification for using the power of government to silence political opponents." Righty blogger Sister Toldjah explains one reason why. "[I]t's much better to stand by and watch your opponent show their true colors rather than forcing them—especially via the government—to hide behind a mask," she writes. "Better the devil you know, than the one you don't."

Read more bloggers on the DailyKos FEC ruckus.

Blake Wilson is a Slate contributor and former Slate editor.

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