Obama's First Missteps

Last Monday CNN aired the now infamous (and overly self-congratulatory) "YouTube Debate." My thoughts:

- The one significant political battle to emerge from this experiment resulted from the question concerning whether the Democratic candidate would meet with Chavez, Castro, and Ahmadinejad during his or her first year in office. Obama answered unequivocally that he would, while Hillary said that she wouldn't promise to do so, and that it would depend on the circumstances (e.g. she wouldn't if they'd simply be using the meeting for propaganda). Of course Hillary was right on this one, though the YouTube questioner didn't think so. Instead of letting it die down, Obama has been pushing the issue all week. In doing so, he's clearly telling the public that his presidency will have a more appeasement-oriented foreign policy, while Hillary's smart, reasonable answer will win her independents and skeptical Republicans.

- Whoever chose the questions for CNN must not have had a lot to work with. One YouTuber wanted to know whether Obama was "black enough," and Obama, of course, didn't really answer the question other than to suggest he has a hard time catching a cab in NY. Another YouTuber sang a song about all the taxes he pays and asked why he has to pay so many taxes. In his interview, he told CNN that he runs a business and that most of his clients are rich, so he likes them, and then said (and I'm paraphrasing) that he's glad the candidates will go after the rich for revenue. Mixed messages, or just a confused voter?? Another asked about reparations-- truly a major issue in this year's elections (sarcasm intended here). Generally, there were no good questions on economic policy and nothing new with respect to foreign policy.

- Best Moment of the Night: When asked to say something good and something bad about the person on the left of each candidate, Joe Biden said, of Dennis Kucinich, "I don't like a damn thing about him," and then said he was just kidding. He then turned to Kucinich and said "Dennis, the thing I like best about you is your wife." The camera then panned to Kucinich's wife, who is indeed out of his league. Then Anderson Cooper asked Kucinich to say something about the person to his left. However, Kucinich was on the end, and he said "[t]hey didn't put anyone to the left of me. Think about it." The audience guffawed. Cooper remarked that he wasn't "sure it would be possible to find anybody [to the left of Kucinich]." Great comedy!

- Mike Gravel certainly won the debate in terms of one liners. He complained about the other candidates' corporate backers, asked why there weren't more questions directed at him, embarrassed private jet-takers by saying he got to the debate by bus (or train-- I can't remember), and I think, was the only person to actually answer the "one good thing, one bad thing" question before it turned into an "I'm not answering" lovefest. Good for you, Mike.