Last night’s Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN, allowed ordinary citizens around the country to be heard. By uploading a 30-second video to YouTube, “voters could directly question a presidential candidate during the debate.” Thirty-nine videos were chosen from the 2,989 submitted. CNN will hold a similar debate for the Republican candidates on Sept. 17.
Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, noted that this new debate format “is more democratic than ever.” Carol Darr at George Washington University said that for the first time, “the filter that mainstream establishment media plays in presidential races — ‘we ask the questions, we are the exalted panel’ — that was broken down.”
This morning in a press briefing aboard Air Force One, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Tony Snow whether the President’s remarks today about terrorism would address some of the criticisms from the Democratic presidential debate last night. When Snow said they wouldn’t, the reporter asked:
QUESTION: Did he watch the debate?
SNOW: I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s big on YouTube debates.
It’s not surprising that President Bush would dislike open, democratic debates. The Bush administration has banned Democrats from events in order to fabricate a sympathetic, supportive audience. During the campaign, “attendees to Bush rallies were turned away for wearing pro-John Kerry T-shirts and stickers.” They also were often encouraged to volunteer for the local Bush campaign, take pledges of support for the President, or answer questions about their loyalty to Bush in order to attend.