Darrell Huckaby - CNN botches YouTube Republican Debate

Once upon a time if you wanted to be heard in print you could become a writer or write a letter to the editor - less than 150 words, please, and keep your tone civil. Oh, yes. Be sure to include your name and address.

Then came vents and online blogs and now everybody has a public forum.

If you wanted to be on TV you had to get your mama to put you in the peanut gallery at the Popeye Club show. Ask a native - an old one - if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

If you wanted to be a performer, you had to be born with extraordinary talent or study acting or get discovered eating an ice cream sundae at a Hollywood drug store or sleep with a director - something.

Not anymore. Now we have something called "YouTube," and suddenly everybody can be a star. There is still that tree falling in the forest scenario and I don't know if the performances actually count if no one is watching, but every day thousands and thousands of people record themselves doing outrageous things - singing, dancing, sleeping, taking risks, asking political questions - you name it, you can find somebody posting on the Internet and now everybody is a star - at least in their own minds.

What better place, when you get right down to it?

And now CNN has taken the "YouTube" craziness to a new low with the recent "YouTube Republican Debate."

I think the days of candidates climbing up on a stump to speak while planted shills screamed questions from low-hanging tree limbs were preferable to what I saw on televison Wednesday night. And it has nothing to do with the candidates or the way they conducted themselves. I mean, it wasn't Lincoln vs Douglas for the Illinois senate, but they were at least moderately coherent, given the circumstances. But the whole thing had a bit of a carnival atmosphere and, quite frankly, seemed to demean the entire electoral process to me.

Now before you get your dander up, my skepticism about the YouTube debates has nothing to do with the fact that regular people from all over the nation got to ask questions about what was really on their minds. That's a quite novel concept, actually, and could have created a positive format for a presidential debate.

But the way CNN selected and presented the questions, well, Officer Don and Orville the Dragon could have done a better job.

Really now. Is a cartoon image of Vice President Dick Cheney asking if the next VP will get to run the country too really appropriate in a serious debate? I admit that it was funny and entertaining, but so is Saturday Night Live.

And did you catch the unreconstructed redneck from Texas who asked the question that is on the minds of voters everywhere? "What does that (Confederate battle flag) mean to you?"

Pure sensationalism. The Confederate battle flag is not an issue in this election.

And then there was the Hillary Clinton plant. Out of thousands and thousands of "random" submissions CNN just happened to pick from a homosexual retired army general who wants to chastise all the candidates for supporting the "don't ask don't tell" policy that the military has been observing since Bill Clinton was in office.

The fact that he was allowed to ask his question, via YouTube, was not the issue. The isue was that after several of the candidates answered his question, the general stood up in the studio audience and was given a microphone and an opportunity to chastise the candidates for "not answering his question." In reality, they did answer his question - explicitly. They just didn't give him the answer he wanted to hear.

The general actually became a part of the debate and was given more screen time than half the candidates. They didn't let the flag boy stand up in the audience and debate Mitt Romney.

Of course, the flag boy has never headed one of Hillary's steering committees, either, but the general has.

Yeah. I know.

The weird presentations of the questions aside, I actually enjoyed most of the debate and actually learned a little bit about the candidates.

I learned, for instance, that it is OK to have illegal immigrants working in your yard but it is not OK to have them living in your city.

I learned that we, as a country, are not learning the lessons of history. Sen. John McCain pointed out that we never lost a single battle in Vietnam but had our mission undermined by the media and unpopular public sentiment.

And I learned that Mike Huckabee has more common sense than most of the other candidates combined. Common sense used to count for something in this country. Perhaps it will again. Here's hoping so. In the meantime, I hope another YouTube panel is assembled soon. I've got my video camera ready and I have a few questions I'd love to ask Hillary.

Does anybody know where I can get an Orville the Dragon puppet?

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.