Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Miami debate

Some bloggers “live-blog” events such as the Univision debate among Democratic candidates. (Transcript here.)

Others get to it two days later; that’s what we’re doing here.

I like Univision’s news programs, even though they move seamlessly between regular news and pure advocacy. And I liked the idea of a Spanish-language debate. I hope Republicans agree to do one too, but that seems unlikely since Senator McCain is reportedly the only GOP candidate who is willing to participate.

Having seen the debate, however, I can understand why a candidate would be reluctant to agree to this format.

The translation was incomplete, which is a real disservice to the audience and the candidates. This could have been remedied by broadcasting with a delay of several hours and avoiding the extraordinary difficulty of simultaneous translation.

The moderators, star anchors Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos, were protagonists – they directed some questions to all candidates, but they directed some questions to just a few; a dubious technique, as shown by the brief discussion of Cuba policy.

Governor Richardson made a comment about Cuba in response to a general question on Latin America – he said that we should “possibly start lifting the embargo” after political prisoners are released. There was one question about Cuba, directed to two candidates only.

The question itself was framed in a way that excluded the possibility that the United States might do something constructive now – rather, it asked how Washington would act once Fidel Castro is gone.

That was right up Senator Clinton’s alley. She advocates a stand-pat policy, i.e. do nothing until Castro is gone, and she got the first crack at the question. She gave a bland answer about talking with Latin American and European nations “to try to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy and freedom,” which is President Bush’s current approach.

The same question went to Senator Dodd, who argued in favor of engagement now.

And that was it. Senator Obama was given no opportunity to address the issue, even though he has made interesting Cuba proposals and his candidacy poses a real challenge to Senator Clinton. An odd omission.

Senator Clinton closed the debate by paying tribute to Latino achievement and asking for viewers’ support.

Jorge Ramos then closed the event, saying he wanted to “clarify” that Univision’s news division has “absolute journalistic independence.”


Anonymous said...

Sen. Clinton is disappointing. I was for her, now I am an Obama man.

leftside said...

I thought it was interesting when Edwards said the US had been either "disengaged or a bully" in its dealings with Latin American in recent years.

Clinto said there are more “anti-democratic” countries in Latin America now than in 1994 (a time when things were very tenuous in many places... Peru, Mexico, Colombia). What she really meant was what followed. There are also more "anti-American” countries.

Dodd called out Clinton's apparent denial of the last year in Cuba when she said we will wait to see what follows Fidel. Dodd made clear he thought the transition had already occured and we need to get in the game now by lifting the embargo.

I also thought it was interesting how Kucinich and Gravel seemed to get the (Miami) crowd going the most - with their calls for universal health care, pre-school and free college (paid for with military cuts).

No one took the bait offered by the moderators and called Hugo Chavez a dictator.