Back in the Paleolithic era of this presidential campaign (a.k.a. last summer), there was an intramural dustup in the conservative blogosphere over whether the Republicans should agree to a YouTube debate as their Democratic counterparts did. Proponents for the debate argued that not engaging in a YouTube debate would relegate Republicans to Luddite status, ignoring crucial technologies to their own great detriment.
Opponents said that a debate should be about substance not gimmickry, and that a YouTube debate would inevitably be several magnitudes worse than those citizen Q&A sessions like the one in 1992 where a middle aged man beseeched President Bush, Governor Clinton and Citizen Perot to treat the voters as their children. Virtually the entire conservative blogosphere supported the idea of a YouTube debate. The lone detractors/voices of reason were my blogging partner Hugh Hewitt and I.
Last night, Hugh had YouTube's "director of news and politics," Young Steve Grove, on his radio program. It's an interview that has to be heard to be believed. Young Steve showed an unusual mastery of the new left's rhetorical tics; he mindlessly repeated his talking points, while evading such simple questions like where he went to school and how old he was.
In a way, it's sad that this most important of Republican debates will descend into demagogic idiocy. Expect the same kind of purportedly heart-tugging rubbish the left faced, e.g. hospital patients asking about health care reform and school teachers inquiring about No Child Left Behind with a brood of smiling tykes in the background. Of course, it will probably be worse than that. Let your mind run wild, picturing wounded vets and grieving widows.
The good news for the candidates is with all this stupidity running amuck and wildcards being dealt, there's a golden chance for some candidate to have a real "I paid for this microphone" moment. Tonight's format will likely reward the bold.
And hopefully tonight will serve as a teachable moment for Republicans regarding technological flash vs. political substance.