YouTube Debate Lives Up to Its Hype

This post, written by Ari Melber, originally appeared on The Nation

The YouTube presidential debate actually lived up to its hype. For about two hours last night, American political discourse was more genuine, diverse and - just as the Internet visionaries promised - more authentic than most days on the campaign trail.

CNN presented compelling homemade videos on a wide range of topics. Volunteers called for intervention in Darfur, as they stood amidst children in a refuge camp. One Michigan resident asked for the candidates' views on gun control while brandishing a huge assault riffle, which prompted Joe Biden to note that the guy "needs help." Stephen Sorta, a middle aged Californian, pressed the candidates with an idea that sparked one of the most revealing exchanges of the evening. He asked the candidates to commit, during their first year in the White House, to unconditional meetings with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to "bridge the gap that divides our countries." Obama seized the idea, committing to the meetings and aggressive diplomatic engagement, while also blasting the Bush administration's "ridiculous" notion that "not talking to countries is punishment." It was a fine answer for Democratic voters fed up with Bush's cowboy foreign policy. But then Clinton and Edwards both offered much deeper responses, worth quoting in full:

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