Debate Excitement -- Fighting Words
October 31st, 2005

The blog Drinking Liberally is so excited about the live debate that it is holding a party to watch it in this hip former firehouse in Tribeca turned non-profit TV studios.

Of course the debate they are talking about is the one next Sunday between Jimmy Smits (playing Democratic presidential candidate Matt Santos) and Alan Alda (playing his Republican rival Arnold Vinick) on The West Wing, which NBC promises will be live, and is even encouraging viewers to submit questions for the candidates. It’s not clear whether we will get to vote as well.

There was nothing I could discern on Drinking Liberally about those other debaters that New Yorkers could watch (and definitely vote f0r), Michael Bloomberg and Fernando Ferrer — who debated yesterday and are scheduled to debate tomorrow — and few other bloggers seem to have commented either.

The reliable (another way of saying slightly fanatical) Ben Smith from The Politicker did offer an exercise in minute-by-minute “live-blogging” running commentary during the debate itself early Sunday morning, and then followed up with an interesting take today on an easy-to-miss issue that was brought up obliquely during the debate -— Ferrer’s proposal to tax vacant land in order to encourage owners to build.

Jen Chung from Gothamist, who called the debate “sub-scintillating” (Now Jen, is anything scintillating at 9 a.m. Sunday morning?), handily summarized the press “analysis” (the Post called Ferrer “animated,” the Daily News said the debate was “too little too late,” the Times said it was Ferrer’s “best day in the race ever”) while mercifully sparing us from repeating their excruciating fight metaphors, such as this one from the Daily News — “But like an 11th-round flurry of punches from an already wounded prizefighter, Ferrer’s assaults were probably too little, too late in a race that is now only nine days away from the final bell, experts say.” (Why not “fight promoters say”?) — or this one from the New York Post — “Bloomberg and Ferrer continued to duke it out at center stage, regardless of the rules” — or these from the New York Times analysis — “outmatched”, “parried” “‘it’s hard to remember any major blows that landed’..”(that last a quote from Mark Green).

It might be unfair to, well, beat up the newspaper reporters for this — Julie from School of Blog, who clearly did not even watch the debate, repeated Ferrer’s line about not running for mayor of fourth grade, and then labeled it “apparentlyone of the only good jabs.” She was at least more original in her follow-up observation, offering visual proof of how the two candidates “strikingly resemble woodland creatures” — Bloomberg a tortoise, and Ferrer a chipmunk.

The only newspaper to write an editorial about the debate — as opposed to a news analysis in the news pages — was the New York Sun, which praised Bloomberg for saying something Sunday morning that he had refused to say previously — that he would try to avoid raising taxes to close next year’s budget gap. The editorial writer gushed sarcastically over “what a wonderful influence an approaching election can have on a politician’s mind” and suggested: ” Maybe the way to reduce the city’s tax burden, among the highest in the nation, is to have annual elections.”

Times reporter Patrick Healy believed that Ferrer “achieved two goals with his debate performance that his cash-poor campaign has not: He made himself look larger, and Mr. Bloomberg less mighty, than recent polls suggest. Problem is, yesterday’s debate – and a second one scheduled to be broadcast at 7 p.m. tomorrow on WNBC Channel 4 – may come too late to dash the aura of inevitability that surrounds Mr. Bloomberg’s re-election drive” — an inevitability helped along by some $64 million (so far) in campaign spending. Healy allowed himself to scoff at Bloomberg’s explanation for this unprecedented spending — that the mayor needed to get the word out and didn’t have a Democratic machine to do so. “In a city that is about five-to-one Democratic, this point could be taken with a straight face if the mayor could even remotely be considered an underdog.”

(A second Sun editorial agreed that the disparity in campaign spending was unfair, and blamed it on the city’s campaign finance laws.)

To make your own judgment about the debate, go here for the transcript.

By on October 31, 2005, 1:32 pm
In category: Electoral Politics | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Debate Excitement -- Fighting Words”

  1. Justin Krebs Says:
    November 2nd, 2005 at 7:45 am

    Jonathan –

    Drinking Liberally shares your concern that the West Wing debate gets more play than the Mayoral. That’s why Drinking Liberally invited surrogates for Ferrer and Bloomberg to join us before our West Wing Watch Party to pitch their candidates.

    And we invite you as well: Sunday evening, 7:30, at the DCTV Firehouse at 87 Lafayette St.

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