Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An Assessment of the Mother of all Debates

Last evening's Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards was a sizzler. This U.S. party nomination process is creating a unique, exciting, historical and optimistic time in American politics and in media.

The format of the debate was open and allowed flexibility on the part of quick and adept moderator Wolf Blitzer. The swiftly adaptable Blitzer adroitly responded to opportunities for explosive debate moments, which were sparked by accusations thrown by Obama and Clinton. It caused an anxious and patient John Edwards to wait longer to chime in but allowed the flexible rules to apply to all. This made for a live dramatic debate, which was skillfully facilitated by Blitzer.

The sparks were mainly between Hillary and Obama. Moderator Blitzer sensed the "famous debate moments" and allowed extra responses to jabs between the two during the episodes. Obama made a comment about Clinton serving as a Walmart corporate lawyer, and she fired back with a body shot, citing Obama's work for a slum landlord in Chicago, and also forcing Obama to rationalize his statements in which he called Ronald Reagan a transformer.

That exchange was heated, and John Edwards' temperature had risen as well while awaiting his turn to respond at one particular point. He made it known that "there is a third candidate in this debate," and brought the focus back on track to the original question that was asked.

After the debate some CNN political analysts declared that if there was a winner it might have been John Edwards.

This observer's observations:

This debate was a fantastic event! There were three winners. Each candidate performed impressively and probably reinforced the allegiance of already decided voters. There were no knock-outs, or even standing nine counts, but the first half of the debate sure had no dull moments.

South Carolina is significant for several reasons. One, because of the large African-American population, and the "dilemma" they may find themselves in, i.e., choosing between three very culturally relevant political options. The dilemma may be there because former president Bill Clinton was considered by many African-Americans to be the first "black president", as he had generally improved the fortune of African-Americans in the 1990s, including a significant rise in annual income level.

Hillary, the wife of this person, and presumably sharing the same attitude and hopes for blacks, is seen as being "black-friendly". Obama is already there, and friendly. He could inspire the highest ever level of goal achievement, and more political involvement among blacks. It would be huge, and a feel good and proud period, for African-Americans.

John Edwards was impressive because of his sincerity and conviction as he described his commitment to address equality, and poverty, two issues that are so very important to the African-American community in the U.S. He looked sincere, was convincing, and made the audience feel like he was their champion.

South Carolina is important as well because Edwards' chances of being a still viable contender will shrink further if he does poorly here. An Obama win, will keep him in the running, and an "equal" contender to Hillary. If he loses there, where 50% of the population is black, then that may be a psychological hit for Obama.

Having said that, South Carolina is not the whole U.S. and there are many other state caucuses coming up on Super Tuesday. Hillary still has an overall lead but Obama has closed the gap.

In last nights debate Hillary was strong, polished, quick, well prepared, competent, confident, and bright. She is no pushover. On the contrary, she has the value-added asset of much political experience, and probably a better-than-average coaching team with Bill Clinton in her corner. Her body language spoke strength and confidence.

Obama did well to fend off and explain most of the shots at him, but at times, he seemed a little hesitant as a public speaker.

At this point in the campaign, Hillary Clinton is looking the strongest.

In addition to the hope generated by potentially electing a first black president, there is another sign of black influence and presence in this election process. Maybe it's just my perception but there seems to be more media exposure for African-American political experts.

It is because there is a black top two front runner, Barack Obama, that there appears to be plenty of black political analysts, on CNN at least. This is a great thing to see because it hints of equality, and it shows on the faces of the experts themselves. It also allows viewers to become familiar with opinions from more black academics and pundits.

How far Obama will go remains to be seen, but for now, "what can be", is generating hope.

1 comment:

People Power Granny said...

Check out my post on http://peoplepowergranny.blogspot.com and get my impressions of the South Carolina Democratic Primary. You can also vote in my poll or add your comment.