Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Second Democratic Debate

The second Democratic Presidential Debate, hosted by CNN, was terrible. That wasn’t the fault of the candidates, at least, not exclusively. Instead, it was CNN that ran an absolutely awful show. It was silly, pandering, and often seeming like it was little more than “Survivor: Democrats”, with the show attempting to manufacture conflict where there really wasn’t any, and to ignore those who weren’t singled out for attention. Americans and Democrats alike deserved better, and CNN failed utterly.

We could see early on how awful coverage would be. Both nights, the coverage began with a long verbal introduction of the candidates for the night, a commercial break, then back to the broadcast beginning with yet another introduction of the candidates in the debate. Then a long flag ceremony, an interpretation of the US national anthem, and, finally, a dozen minutes or so into the broadcast, they got ready to begin the actual debate.

Night One was the Bernie and Elizabeth Show, and Night Two was the Joe and Kamala show. Other candidates occasionally got to say a few things, but the questions and follow-up questions were mainly directed at the two candidates who were the focus of the night.

We can see this in the amount of speaking time given to the candidates:

On Night One, Elizabeth Warren got 18:33, and Bernie Sanders got 17:45. The candidate with the third-most amount of time was Buttigieg, who got 14:07. The next four were all similar: Bullock 10:59, O’Rourke 10:58, Klobuchar 10:49, and Delaney 10:31. The small amount of time given to Delaney will surprise some people on Twitter, since they complained abut how much he was talking. Ryan was next at 9:47, followed by the bottom two, Williamson on 8:52 and Hickenlooper on 8:49.

On Night Two, Joe Biden got 21 minutes, and Kamala Harris got 17:18. Booker was this on 13:05 and Gillibrand was fourth on 11:25. The next four were all similar: Inslee 10:48, Tulsi Gabbard 10:47, Bennet 10:25, followed by de Blasio with 9:17 and Yang on 8:53.

Commentators on the night and since seemed unimpressed with Night One, and CNN’s use of Delaney, and to some degree Hickenlooper, to attack Sanders and Warren without giving much else. Vox’s Ezra Klein Tweeted: “Seriously? More time for Delaney in the hopes he'll attack Warren's wealth tax? But...why?” At the time, I wondered if it was just for the fireworks. Williamson was lauded for some of her statements, especially on contaminated water for Michigan, but at the time it didn’t impress me because the same point had been made many times before by others. Her comments on race and reparations, however, were better than most of the others—but despite that, I still think she’s a flake. I also thought that Mayor Pete got in some of the best comments of the night. A transcript of Night One was posted by The Washington Post, saving us all the burden of having to watch it all.

I still followed Twitter on Night Two, but I actually didn’t listen as closely as I did on Night One—I was already over the whole thing by then. I rolled my eyes when de Blasio used his opening statement to attack Biden and Harris, because it seemed like little more than a desperate play for attention. It also set the stage for the tone of the night, mostly a fight between Biden and Harris, as it was in their match-up in the First Debate. This time, though, Harris seemed far less able than she did in the First Debate. Instead, Booker did the main job of attacking Biden—at the very least, he was generally more effectively than Harris was. Castro, like Harris, also wasn’t nearly as impressive as in the First Debate. Yang got a lot of positive talk after the debate, but he didn’t impress me, either. The last thing the USA needs, in my opinion, is another president who was a businessman who thinks he has all the answers.

As it did for Night One, The Washington Post posted a transcript of Night Two.

NBC’s coverage of the First Democratic Debate may have suffered from technical glitches, but CNN’s suffered from something far worse: Bad choices. From wasting viewers’ time at the start of each night, through to giving Warren and Sanders too much speaking time on Night One and doing the same for Biden and Harris on Night Two, CNN made too many dumb choices for the debate to be of any use to anyone, especially undecided voters.

Actually, it wasn’t terribly attractive even for politics junkies like me. Roger Green, who is a political science major like me, didn’t watch either debate, but nevertheless had some good observations on the candidates and how they did. The two nights certainly didn’t persuade me to back any candidate, nor did I become opposed to any—or, to put it more accurately, nothing changed my opinions of the candidates.

The second Democratic Presidential Debate was terrible. Americans and Democrats alike deserved better, and hopefully they’ll get it in the debate next month. I’m just not sure I’ll want to watch it.

CNN Was Ill-Equipped for This
by Megan Garber, The Atlantic

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