Sunday, September 21, 2008

Battle of the Sound Bites

Eagerly awaiting Friday's debate? This is about what I expect.
You may be familiar with some of the dramatic, history-turning moments. Gerry Ford saying in 1976 that there was no Soviet domination of Poland. Ronald Reagan asking voters in 1980 to devastating effect: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Bill Clinton locking eyes with a citizen in 1992 who asked him to put a human face on the deficit problem, as George HW Bush stood by mute. Al Gore sighing too much in 2000.

If that last example doesn't seem of a piece with the others, there's a reason. These days, debates aren't 90 minutes. They're 72 hours. In today's American media culture of cable television and ideologically competing blogs, there is first the debate itself and then the debate over the debate. The latter is hashed out over the three days following the debate, during which the instant, debate-night conventional wisdom can be turned on its head by the side that has the more aggressive spin operation.
I can hardly wait.

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