Politico: Was it the worst debate ever?

Politico as asking, in a fascinating article, if yesterday’s Presidential Town Hall debate was perhaps the worst debate ever. The question begs exploration considering the term “Town Hall” should have been replaced with “questions picked by Tom Brokaw read by audience members.”

That being said, no, I don’t think it was the worst debate ever. I recall some Democratic and Republican primary debates earlier in 2007 and 2008 which were dull and boring.

Anyways, here’s part of the article with some further exploration, from Politico:

With the country at one of its most interesting — not to mention terrifying — moments in a generation, John McCain and Barack Obama met in Nashville for what was surely one of the dullest and least satisfying presidential debates in memory.

There have been boring debates before, of course. Truth be told, probably only a fraction of these encounters, over the 32 years since general election debates became a fixture of presidential campaigns, actually delivered on their promise of great political drama. And even interesting debates are inevitably somewhat stilted affairs, as candidates cleave to their scripts and try to avoid blunders.

But the Belmont University showdown was something entirely different. Place the gravity of the moment next to the blah-blah-blah artifice of the rhetoric and overall insubstantiality of the evening, and this is what you get: The worst presidential debate ever.

The day after leaves behind a puzzle: How the hell did candidates manage to be so timid and uninspiring at a time when American troops are in two problematic wars, the world financial markets are in scary free fall and the Dow has lost 1,400 points since Oct. 1? This is a moment history rarely sees — and both men blew it.

It was an odd reversal of the usual optics of power. Ordinarily, the national stage can take even life-size pols such as Michael Dukakis and imbue them with an outsize aura.

Tuesday’s debate was a look through the wrong end of the telescope: Men with fascinating biographies seemed conventional. The promise both men once offered of a new, less contrived and more creative brand of politics was a distant memory.

An evening this bad is not the result of just an off night by the candidates. It can flow only from a confluence of circumstances.

Both candidates carefully slipped by questions, refusing to give definites even to simple questions. Obama is knows how to walk his away around a definitive answer and sound like he gave one. It’s more obvious when McCain ignores the question and begins speaking of something else.

More from the article:

It’s not Brokaw’s fault. Or Jim Lehrer’s or Gwen Ifill’s. The problem is the commission that has been invested with pseudo-constitutional status to run the debates but, in fact, weakly defers to candidates and clings to antiquated formats. No serious candidate would skip a debate. So the commission should use its leverage to insist that the debates are interesting to voters, rather than safe for candidates. Allow moderators to be more aggressive — and to call out candidates for lame answers — and then allow the candidates to go at it over the issues that matter most without time constraints.

This is the truth as I have yet to see the candidates actually “debate,” instead they just answer a question with their rehearsed line. If the question wasn’t part of their rehearsal, they just transition to another rehearsed line. Where is the back-and-forth, where is the debate?

It is hard to imagine a more relevant question for the moment than the evening’s first, when an audience member asked for “the fastest, most positive solution” to help older people, whose economic standing is most imperiled by the crash in home values and markets.

To this specific question, Obama offered a generic answer about the perils of excessive deregulation, the need for health care and the scandal of junketeering executives at American International Group, one of the companies bailed out by the government.

McCain was at first no more responsive as he called for energy independence and low taxes. When he pivoted to a specific answer, it was with a breathtakingly ambitious idea to “order the secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America” and renegotiate the terms so that people have to move. But the actual details of this unprecedented intervention — the cost, logistics and philosophical rationale for protecting people from unwise purchases — were murky. And, amazingly, neither McCain nor Obama, nor Brokaw, returned to the subject.

Here’s my theory, and this is just an opinion, but I think perhaps McCain and Obama both have a little baggage with regard to this current economic crisis. McCain is attached to the Republican Party which presided over the Presidency the past 8 years along with Congress upuntil 2006. Obama is attached to the Democrats who have been implicated in blocking tighter regulations on Fannie and Freddie. Plus, Obama took President of Fannie Mac as the person in charge of choosing his Vice President.

Therefore, both candidates can attack each other but neither are entirely innocent on the issue. Just my thoughts, tear me apart in the comments, as I’m sure you will.

Obama and McCain both are men with large life stories, asking to lead the country at a large moment. With one more debate to go, could someone turn the telescope around?

I concur. I am hoping Bob Schieffer will take the liberty of livening up the final debate. Ask the questions and demand followups when neither candidate gives a good answer. Get them off their talking points and rehearsed lines.

The next, and final debate is Wednesday, October 15h, 2008 at 9PM Eastern.

Sound off below, was it the worst debate ever, as Politico called it, or was it just dull? Or, did you love it? What did you think? That is, irrespective of Obama or McCain, what did you think about the questions and the format?

  • EricF

    yes, worst debate ever. Brokaw should be banned from ever moding a debate again. this wasnt a townhall style debate as was advertised. Brokaw chose the questions that for the most part had already been answered many times over by both candidates.

  • Brian

    No… the worst was that one with Obama and Clinton where George Stephanopolous & Co. spent the first half on distracrtions instead of issues. The backlash against ABC (I believe) was strong for a week following.


    Brokaw had 10 million questions to choose from and he chose some of the worst and bacially “gimme” questions for Barack Obama. I mean there was about 5 questions that healthcare in it. The whole is it a right, privilage, responbility was definitely for Obama. I mean Do he and CBS think we are retarded?!? That was no town hall debate and they purposely chose the questions they did to help Obama. This is a perfect example of how the liberal media has again helped Obama avoid the truly hard questions AMERICANS WOULD ASK OF HIM!

    It was disgusting and this shows journalism and reporting has died here with the liberal media.

  • EricF

    anyone here heard anything about this yet…


    this could be the nail in the coffin for the Obama campaign if true. not saying it is true but something we should all be aware of and follow to see what comes of this.

  • EricF


    this is a link to a better thread on the same forum. sorry for making two posts about the same thing.

  • Brittanicus

    The second debate and the usual deaf-ear to the illegal immigration invasion of our nation. Obama and McCain not a word. In fact not much of anything. Just bickering!

    The economy is in serious trouble and places like California are supporting illegal alien families with massive welfare payments. $ billions of dollars that could be spent on the legal population, infrastructure, health care is supporting illegal pariah employer hires.


    Even our own government is violating it’s own laws, by funding ‘Sanctuary cities’. MILLIONS have stolen into our country and we reward them with taxpayer money. STOP IT! Or they will never stop coming..

    The pestilence will not stop growing till we rigidly enforce immigration laws. the middle class already overburdened with war appropriation funds, is still forced to pay for the education, free health-care and Federal, state welfare handouts for illegal criminals.

    Be observant and watch for VOTER FRAUD, as illegal aliens will commit perjury in November

    SIGN UP FOR THE SAVE ACT(H.R.4088) enforcement ‘ONLY’ law at http://www.numbersusa.com.



    http://www.numbersusa.com to Petition the SAVE ACT. For immigration facts not propaganda or lies,

  • U.S.A.

    LOL…..One thing I can say for you guys. You don’t give up. LOL

    “Nail in the coffin”

    Funny stuff I say….LOL

  • EricF

    U.S.A. before commenting you may want to do some research and find the connection between Obama and Odinga, what happened in Kenya when Odinga lost the election. i suppose its just coincidence that Odingas campaign slogan was… change. i think this shows what kind of change Obama has planned for America. dont take my word, do some research.


    the connectiono is very scary Eric. Thank you so much for both links I now intent to thoroughly look into this much more than I did before. THANK YOU!

  • Dreadsen

    Boy these conspiracy theorist will not give up.

    While you are at it are you looking into 9/11?

    you know there are some very good conspiracies out there that phrase facts and leave mystery in a way leading you to believe that the Government flew B-52 bombers into the world trade center. Do I believe it. Hell no.

    But if i had the D E S I R E to believe it then i would.
    When you deeply hate someone or a group your mind tends to be selective to only search for more things no matter how ridiculous they sound.

    While the Big Hero McCain must be in on all these conspiracies because he isn’t saying anything about them.

    Therefore McCAin is part of the Conspiracy to let Obama get a pass on having bogus birth Certificate and connections with Odinga.

    McCain is bringing up an old story which has loose links and can be debunked BUT…..
    He ignores the Odinga connection. He is fully aware of it but doesn’t want to say anything. Ooooh I wonder why? ( insert sppoky scary music)
    McCain knows that Obama has a bogus brith certificate and throws this Ayers thing up as a cover and a diversion from this so Obama can get in unnoticed. (insert night gallery music)

    The questions is ( no jokes here) Why isn’t McCain bringing this up? If he can bring up Ayers why is he not bringing up this Plot between Obama and Odinga to destory the United states?
    So do you still trust McCain over Obama? Or have you realized that they must be one in the same with the same agenda?

  • EricF

    OBAMA_SUCKS do a youtube search for “Obama Odinga” and the connection becomes very clear.

  • Dreadsen

    Someone tell me why McCain isn’t pointing this out? He could win the election if this was true. And if you haven’t seen how his campaign has gone recently he would have pulled this things to the light if it wasn’t along the lines of loch ness monster and Abominable Snow man.

  • EricF

    Dreadsen, it would be irresponsible for any candidate to bring to light any information that hasnt been verified. doesnt that sense to you? Corsi supposedly is going to appear on H&C Monday. even though i want McCain to win im not going around saying this stuff is fact because nothing has been proven, yet. the one thing that i have seen however is that there is undeniably a connection between Obama and Odinga. we will have to wait and see what comes of this.

    if its all bs then i will come back here and admit it was all bs.


    Dreadsen I am no 9.11 conspiracy theorist you s.o.b. lets get that straight. Dont bring that crap up or I will give you an earful for sure.

  • EricF

    move along nothing to see here.

    thats all im hearing from the Obama campaign. its sad because this was supposed to be the guy thats all about transparency. i guess that doesnt apply to himself though. how can people make an informed decision when they dont have all the info? maybe thats the point. think about it.

  • Sam

    Why has the debate become like “Dancing With the Stars?” and we are all voting on why debated the purdiest??? Neither one is 100% perfect for the job.. the question is who is the best fit for the job at hand for all Americans and our futures.

  • EricF


    audio from the Hannity – Corsi interview earlier tonight.

  • Dhd

    I heard somewhere that McCain is a communist. A freedom-hating communist. Swear to god. It’s not irresponsible of me to repeatedly mention the rumor, but he’s definitely a communist – I hear. No, no actual evidence per-say, more a series of emotive youtube videos. Very convincing though, they have pictures of actual people, and great music. MCCAIN IS A COMMUNIST – probably.

    All you McCain supporters are just blind, can’t accept the FACTS, that McCain is a Communist. Seriously. Dangerous Communist, in cahoots with Communists, hung around with Communists in the 20’s, actually SHOOK HANDS WITH COMMUNISTS in the 30s. Damn his COMMUNIST WAYS.

    I will definitely recant all this as BS, if it turns out to be BS, despite my absence of objectivity on truth to this point. MCCAIN is a COMMUNIST. And I hear he’s actually North Korean.

    Seriously? This is what the discussion is? Thanks guys, the “conservative” discussion is drowning itself in it’s own ape-like idiocy. God bless your contribution to intelligent discussion. This following paper in no way reflects anyone at all who posts on this site – whatsoever.

    It’s a pity we aren’t seeing Thompson versus Clinton as the main ticket here folks, these two are pathetic. Nary a conservative policy to be seen, a terrible shame.

  • Dhd

    (For what it’s worth Babs, CG, Nate et al., I in no way include you in this category).

  • EricF

    Dhd if this all turns out to be true and factual will you come back here and thank me for helping to bring this info to light? i doubt it. refusal to properly examine the evidence presented wont make that evidence go away now will it? oh but shame on me for passing the word? whats next the race card? wouldnt surprise me at all.

    as i have said we will have to wait and see what comes of this. tell me again why you are so offended by that?

  • “It’s a pity we aren’t seeing Thompson versus Clinton as the main ticket here folks”-Dhd

    It’s funny you mention that, I was just speaking with my husband tonight and I said almost the same thing. I can take Hillary as President, all she is is crooked like any other politician. But this Obama guy, man his shady associations just keep growing, and I will tell you honestly it’s scary.

    As for Fred Thompson, I was in the tank for Fred with grassroots efforts as well as a financial supporter. To me he was the only true conservative that ran. McCain, well what can I say, democrats do better when they run against moderates. I think conservatives woke up with a headache this morning after last night’s debate from screaming at the TV when McCain proposed buying bad mortgages. I know there was yelling in this household.

  • kathy garcia

    I thought Gwen was unethical and completely compromised her intergrity as moderator when she has a book coming out
    with Obama in the title. UUGGGH!!

    WHY WAS THIS CALLED A TOWN HALL? A town hall is where to audience members stand up and ask questions. All we got was
    Brokaw who is clearly in the tank for Obama selecting all the
    questions and the audience reading them. He was able to filter out all the ones that may have truly challenged either man’s record or character. Clearly Obama’s character needs challenging.

    – Rev. Wright – racist
    – Bill Ayers – Terrorist
    – Acorn – Voter Fraud
    – Freddie and Fannie Execs his advisors
    – REZKO – Chicago Mob connection

    The most unbelieveable one??

    – US Citizenship – Why won’t he prove he is a Natural US Citizen? The case is Berg v. Obama, No. 08-cv-04083

    Someone please tell me how that last one can even be a question at this stage??? Why isn’t that being blasted all over the media – oh, yeah that is right they are all brainwashed and completely bias.

  • Pats

    This is becoming outrageous. I can’t comment on any association Obama is accused of but I will definitely say something I know about the Jerome Corsi story. Any evidence Sean Hannity and his guest present to justify link between Obama and Odinga is a LIE.Jerome Corsi went to Kenya to launch his book “Obama Nation: Leftish Politics and the Cult of Personality” but was arrested and deported because he did not have his immigration papers in order. He was even found with a cheque of $1000.00 he took as a gift for Obama’s half brother ( George Obama ). Mr Corsi and his assistant Tim Bueler were asked never to return to Kenya.
    The story about Mr Corsi and his assistant is in The Times of 10/08/08. If you need to verify this from Kenya I’ll give you an e-mail address and a telephone number in Kenya after I’ve got the permission of the owner. God guide America .

  • Pats

    About the second presidential debate, I’ll rather say people like to comment on other’s wrong doing but will never commend their good deeds. Before the VP debate there was very high concern about the moderator whether she would be fair because of her book. A lot of comments were posted before the debate agaist her moderating it. Few had faith that she will do professional work which she no doubt did. Nobody wrote anything after the debate because she did an excellent job. Can we for one moment appreciate what people before we ask for more.

  • Babs

    Pats, Ifill did do a fair job, but later appeared on a Sunday morning talk show and slammed Sarah in the debate. So no points for Ms. Ifill after all.

    The debate was not a town hall forum, as billed. It was a Tom Brokaw forum, which was dull and unimaginative. If he had back off and allowed more questions like the last one and the “why should I trust either one of you” we might have seen something different. Verdict – dull. Responsible – Tom Brokaw.

  • kathy garcia

    Sorry, I don’t think Ifill did a good job at all.

    She was biased and chose such careful questions as not
    to expose her clear bias. Does no one else remember her
    cutting palin off several times or not giving her a chance to
    respond to something Biden had said.

    SORRY her bias was there but it was ever so subtle because she knew she was going to be highly scrutinized as well.

  • freespirit

    why isn’t there a format were candidates have to truly debate issues facing eachother not an audience…with the moderator allowing candidates to counter arguments, with the moderator making sure candidates addressing the issue and interrupting them if they go into their “rehearsed answer” mode… all a presidential candidate has to do nowadays is rehearse answers to a couple of topcis…these guys can do it in their sleep by now, were is the interesting thing in that? any person with a iq above 75 can do practice that…after 2 years campaigning even an idiot should be able to give the same sort of statments over and over again….

  • valleyofthesun

    You know, something just occurred to me, as I was reading all the comments, which seem to have become so numerous on every article, that I can’t even find the time to finish them. I suddenly thought “poor Nate”.

    He has to read through every single one to make sure everybody’s playing nice. Or at the very least, playing nice enough not to need screening.

    I find the thought of posting any opinions on the topic extremely unattractive because I really wouldn’t like to be torn apart because I leaned one way or another. So I don’t.

    But I *would* like to just say, for those of you who have strong opinions one way (EricF and OBAMA_SUCKS) or another (U.S.A. and J.D.) I honestly can’t believe that you would allow yourself to become such strong symbols of annoyance. I think that all 4 of the ones I listed are fairly well-informed, intelligent and learned people. But that makes me wonder even more about some of the pointless comments they make, which surely do not aspire to change anyone’s mind, and can only exist to antagonize one another.

    Seriously… can someone fair and open to reasonable debate even post here? I’m starting to wonder.

    But again…poor Nate. I think I’d be ill if I have to read ALL of your whining and fighting amongst yourselves. It doesn’t make anyone feel like anything productive is happening on any level. And I find it so off-putting, I wouldn’t dare share my views on anything political.

    We’ll see how opinions of the social nature are met first, I guess. 🙂

  • valleyofthesun

    And another thing, and this is for EricF.

    Seriously buddy, I’m actually on your side part of the time, at least about as much as Babs seems to be. But I can see at least part of the reason why no one on the left takes you seriously. You can’t even be bothered with proper grammar or spelling, much less punctuation of any kind.

    I’m on your side dude, but for crying out loud, if you want to be taken seriously, S L O W D O W N, and finish one thought before starting another. Also, it might help not to be so thoughtlessly critical of people who genuinely have a difference of opinion on the facts. That usually pisses people off.

    Ok, sorry for ranting.

  • Babs

    valleyofthesun, thanks for posting. Nate does have a hard time, but that’s why he put the “report comment” button up recently. Good for him, there are only so many hours in the day.

    There are a lot of “lurkers” out there, and I keep on trying just for ones like you. Some seem to sit at their monitors just waiting for the chance to smash again. I’m not here for those, but more for people like you.

  • valleyofthesun

    Thanks for the kind words Babs. I’ll try to participate a bit more often when I feel I have something relevant to contribute. I just really don’t want to get into a battle of the wills because someone decides my opinions are inconvenient. And I think that’s a lot of what I’m seeing here these days.

  • Babs

    Unfortunately, that’s true. And there will always be someone around of no substance that’s here just to antagonize, but don’t let that stop you from voicing your opinion. That’s what this site is really about. 😉

  • Will

    “Does no one else remember her
    cutting palin off several times or not giving her a chance to
    respond to something Biden had said.”

    Yes we remember that Sarah Palin is a SOFTY. Moderators are instructed to cut the candidates off should a candidate exceed their time limit. That hasn’t stopped candidates to from talking in the past though!!! Obama, Biden and McCain does it all the time. The fact that Sarah doesn’t take the opportunity to do so is not the moderator’s fault. Towards the end Sarah did exceed the time limit and moderator as usual attempted to cut her off but let her complete her point. You are blind because you don’t give this two seconds of thought before you open your biased mouth.

  • OBJB

    I agree Ifill did a fair job on the debate, though I don’t agree she failed because she gave commentary afterword on another show. She acted in two different functions. She did her job moderating and provided her commentary on a show later that is designed specifically for that purpose. Whether or not you agree with her opinions shouldn’t play a role in her performance at the debate.

    I don’t think that the moderators necessarily “interfere” with the debates. These debates are designed by the candidates and they put together a rule book that each of them adhere to and the moderator enforces. I’d be interested in seeing what the rules were and who lobbied for what before the debates so their performance could be better analyzed.

    …Or you could do away with the rules and add some ‘3rd party’ candidates to get these people to actually add substance to the dialogue.

  • I thought the debate was shocking and if you haven’t seen SNL’s send up of it on Thursday night then go to NBC’s website it’s got it spot on.