Debate debacles

Disclaimer: This is not by any means a political blog, but writing about the most recent campaign happenings is a rare treat. A debate airs, political reactionaries go haywire and take to their social media accounts, and all hell breaks loose (Exhibit A).

Last Tuesday, unless you actively took refuge to avoid it (some do), you caught wind of the Presidential debate hosted a Hofstra University in New York.

I myself watched the spectacle on Youtube Politics’s livestream from my sickbed. What was open in the neighboring tab? Twitter, of course.

One of the many accounts I follow put it best when he posted this tweet: “Having more fun laughing about tweets about the #debate…than actually watching the debate”.

Truer words were never spoken.

Hardly had words left the mouth of a candidate than they were being responded to on twitter. Within minutes of either candidate making a factual statement there were accounts checking them against published truths and comparing (and tweeting) the results. (Check out this fact check page by the New York Times, full of useful tidbits.)

On the other end of the spectrum, all gaffes and slip-ups by either candidate were immediately seized by the opposing side and monopolized upon. The most unfortunate of these may have been Romney’s now-infamious “binders full of women” comment (to see the video clip click here).

The result? Memes such as this:


and this:


and, unfortunately, this:


Last Tuesday’s debate marks another victory for rapid-fire social media.

Debate debacles

Jim Lehrer for president

As the wider public is aware (unless they’ve taken refuge under a rock or someplace similar), the first round of Presidential debates took place last night.

President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney spoke at the University of Denver. Spoke… and spoke… and spoke…

…and, at several instances, refused to stop. While Romney came off with a “win” over Obama, the real loser (as ABC News so correctly quips) was Jim Lehrer, the debate moderator.

Lehrer, who got his Bachelor’s in Journalism from Mizzou in 1956 (see his full profile here), was meant to keep the debate moving with 15-minute segments on six different topics. By the time the final segment rolled around, there were only 3 minutes left.

Numerous analyses of the candidates’ answers has been conducted (NPR’s “Five Takeaways” is a personal favorite), but I couldn’t help but be distracted by the way both candidates – Romney in particular – stepped continually on Lehrer’s toes.

As journalists, how can we serve as the watchdogs of power when we can’t get power to shut its mouth?

Heres’s the (somewhat obvious) solution as I see it: ask more pointed questions, demand answers, and command the candidates’ respect and attention.

It will be interesting to see what cues the remaining moderators take from Lehrer’s lackluster performance.

Jim Lehrer for president