Recap: All-American Presidential Forums on PBS
All in all, in my opinion, this event was as good a political “debate” between the candidates as far as these types of events go.
African American Political Pundit gives a hilarious take on the event, likening the give and take between the moderators and the crowd to an old-school rap Kurtis Blow concert. And I just have to include my sister’s take on it: an Obama/Edwards or Edwards/Obama ticket would be the hotttest, and win, ultimately, via a wet t-shirt contest.
The good: the moderators asked questions to each candidate. All eight candidates got to respond to the questions with pretty much equal time and took turns answering first so I didn’t get a sense of any candidate being marginalized by the format.
The bad: no issue was really dealt with in a substantive way or with any real depth. The 1 minute, then 30 seconds, then 15 second requirements for the candidates to respond really precluded any one issue to be analyzed deeply. So yes, it was a night for candidates to primarily show how quickly they can spin and how quickly they can think on their feet to respond rapid fire on issues being thrown at them.
I was surprised that the candidate who seemed to really shine and distinguish himself was not Obama or Clinton (although they had their moments) but Dennis Kucinich of all people. He hammered his antiwar message into every response consistently. His answers consistently got a good response from the crowd.
Mike Gravel, for some reason, reminded me of the character Howard Beale from the movie, “Network.” He didn’t seem to be there to try to endear himself to the crowd or his fellow candidates. He seemed there to play the role of renegade outsider to call his fellow candidates out and the American people to rile them up. Gravel made reference to “changing the system” and doing away with the War on Drugs. His ideas and delivery made it seem like he was trying to play the part of radical. He wasn’t always successful and at the end just seemed tired as he says none of his fellow candidates have any moral authority.
Overall, to learn more about the candidates I would like to see them in an in-depth interview setting with a thoughtful interviewer like Bill Moyers. I’d learn more about them as people and their positions on issues in such a setting much more so than the soundbite-ready Smackdown battle royale that was the event at Howard University.
Did I learn something? A little bit. I would have liked more meat and potatoes. But as far as these types of events go, it was fun to watch and I took it for what it was so I wasn’t too disappointed.