Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet column: Frontrunners Obama, Clinton, Richardson and Edwards assigned best podium positions in Monday CNN debate. No random drawing for center stage. Facetime story.


WASHINGTON -- It's by design, not coincidence, that the four front-running Democrats in the race for the White House will be standing together at the debate Monday night in Charleston, S.C., with the other four rivals at the ends, where they will get the least camera time. And not all the candidates are happy about this arrangement.

CNN, a debate co-sponsor, did poll the Democratic presidential campaigns to determine if the lineup should be random. But the "vote" to change came with this CNN rule: The agreement of a majority of the campaigns (five) was needed to trigger a random drawing. With the tiers pretty clearly established, the outcome seemed to be pre-ordained. As they did at the June 3 debate in Manchester, N.H., Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama will have the center podiums, flanked by former Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will be next to Edwards, and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) will be next to Richardson. At the ends: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska).

Monday's debate is also co-sponsored by YouTube/ Google and the South Carolina Democratic Party. The June 3 debate averaged 2.8 million total viewers.

The format for Monday was discussed in a June 29 conference call with the campaigns.

CNN political director Sam Feist said Obama and Clinton were and will be center stage because they "would be the ones questioned by the other candidates and challenged and attacked." The staging is done because a goal of the telecast is to "make this as watchable as possible," Feist said.

In that June 29 discussion, the campaigns were asked to vote by e-mail instead of just stating their preferences on the conference call. A Kucinich representative, who was invited, did not make the call. Feist said they figured Kucinich would want a change and counted his vote that way.

Edwards "doesn't care where he stands in the debate. He cares where he stands on the issues," said spokesman Colleen Murray.

Hari Sevugan, a Dodd spokesman, said, "In a year where much of the early media focus has been on celebrity, the American people expect these debates to provide a level playing field."

He added, "I had thought the Edwards campaign voted to keep the status quo, but if they want to swap their position in the middle of the stage now, we're happy to take it."


If you are allowed to suggest questions, Ms. Sweet, ask if any of these candidates will actively support term limitation and real campaign finance reform. I am one of thousands of your readers that feel that we have lost control of our government to two corporate political parties. We need only listen to the daily rhetoric from either of these partys to know they have self-serving agendas.

Four candidates get preferential spots on the podium. No real fair draw. So much for TRUE democracy. So much for "we are the party with the 'Big Tent' philosophy". No, there the 'hypocrisy and double-standard' party. No difference then those other equal phonies, the republicans.

It is unfortunate that there is a bias in the set-up for the debate, but I hope that it does not infringe in the the discussion of important issues like global poverty. I hope to see many youtubers discussing the issue of poverty in the debate. It is important that the United States, with it's "endless" supply of finances going to the Iraq War (already 340 billion dollars and counting according to the Borgen Project), divert money as little as 19 billion dollars to end the malnutrition and starvation happening worldwide.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 22, 2007 12:02 PM.

Sweet blog photo extra: Clinton's cleavage. Obama's gray hairs. Blogger Sweet meets "Obama girl." was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet Democratic debate blog special. CNN/YouTube potential to plow new ground. Report 1. is the next entry in this blog.

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