Now, I was not a big fan of the CNN/YouTube debate. I largely agree with the criticism that CNN used their editorial ability to pick questions that they couldn’t ask as reporters. That said, I was struck by something this morning. Somehow this seemingly trivial debate managed to get Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to talk about a real difference of policy and philosophy, instead of a stylistic one: whether Presidents should talk to bad countries. This real policy question has been debated for a full week now between Hillary and Obama, making the front page of the Post.
I think this is a real philosophical debate about foreign policy that cuts to a real fracture in the Democratic Party between (responsible) foreign policy elites and one part of the liberal faction of the party base. And it took real people to ask this question. Why? Probably because the press is part of the same elite opinion formation apparatus as everyone else. (incidentally, that’s why they didn’t ask questions about Iraq. Very few serious people were asking questions about Iraq, so the press didn’t either)
In hindsight, it appears that the debate teased out a real difference between the elites of the Democratic Party and the base. That’s exactly what this debate should have done. This gimmicky debate has resulted in the first real large-scale policy clash of the 2008 cycle. Something that 8(?) media sponsored debates couldn’t really achieve.
Just imagine what kinds of exciting questions could be asked in the GOP debate.
Is it any surprise that the people who are running essentially against party elites like John McCain and Ron Paul are interested and Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney aren’t? Is it any surprise that the self-identified arbiter of conservative elite opinion, Hugh Hewitt, is opposed?
I think that means I have changed my mind on this. Let the debate go on! I guess that I am with Patrick Ruffini on this.