Making Sense of Debates

That, and other news, in this weekend’s Political Panorama.

Both parties have now had their first match ups, but is it possible to discern who has the presidential mojo?

MSNBC can be credited for providing forums where candidates are forced to answer succinctly and (sometimes) directly, but brevity makes it all the more difficult for any candidate to stand out, with the sole exception being perhaps Joe Biden’s answer, “yes,” to a question of whether he can cool his verbosity.

At the Republican forum on Thursday,  in a spirited effort to nail the candidates down on their positions, polled the candidates on certain issues. But the candidates sometimes flopped back and forth from their comments that it was tough to keep track of where they stood. At one point, even Matthews said to former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, “Actually, you can respond to anything at this point.”   

Given the sheer number of lesser-known GOP candidates, it had to be tough on the viewer to even tell who was who, how to tell a Huckabee from a Tancredo, a Paul from a Gilmore. With all of them lined up on stage, in their blue suits, it looked from afar like some kind of  bad Gridiron act.

That’s not to say that the candidates didn’t succeed, or fail, in their own way. Rudy Giuliani was able to explain that he’s the one who cleaned up New York City during his term as mayor. In fact, I don’t think he even mentioned 9/11. That fell to  Mitt Romney,  who  noted that he successfully  organized the Salt Lake City Olympics in the wake of the games.

The solution? Actually, it was Tom Vilsack, who has the distinction of being he first 08er to drop out of the race, who provided an innovative idea: pair the candidates up. Two will face off, then the next two, then the next two. It could be done by pick of the draw, or even by where people stand in polls. It’s not perfect, but it may elicit a more substantive discussion — and even a debate.

Winners and Losers:
As campaigns spin who won the debates and who lost, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger who got the biggest slights. When Matthews asked  which GOP candidates would be willing to change the Constitution to allow non-U.S. born citizens to run, only Giuliani and Huckabee said yes. And when asked whether the candidates should be pursuing centrist positions, ala Schwarzenegger, Rep. Duncan Hunter dodged the question and veered off to talk about the need for a border fence.

Waiting in the Wings: Fred Thompson, who speaks Friday night at the Lincoln Club of Orange County, has not yet declared his candidacy. But the Los Angeles Times’ Tina Daunt takes a look at his past credits and notes a curious role from 19 years ago, as a white supremacist in three episodes of the CBS series “Wiseguy.” The worry? That, in act of partisan mischief, the part will get twisted and turned on You Tube and other sites to make it look real. “Not only do politicians have to worry about getting comfortable with a crowd and saying something that might be caught on tape,” said USC professor Leo Braudy, a pop culture expert, who has written extensively about film. “Now actors who have political aspirations will have to go through every single line of every part they played to make sure there’s nothing they need to explain or apologize for.”

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  1. Arwen says:

    It is allwais roblematic.Look Estonian youtube and you see Riots and ect.

  2. On the Democratic side, does anyone know who is in the running other than Hillary, Edwards and Obama? Forget the Republicans, with the Democrats you get Clinton lite, an inexperienced Muslim, and Prettyboy Edwards. Sounds like a cabaret show.

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