For a little while last night, I must admit I got a bit tingly thinking that the electoral process in our democracy might actually become more - what's the word - democratic.
Take away the goofy clips used for entertainment purposes, the sexy set with the gigantic YouTube screen, and Anderson Cooper's "Isn't this cool? I'm so hip!" demeanor, and what you basically had during the first CNN/YouTube debate in South Carolina was real people asking real questions to the democrats who want to be president.
Usually, the only real people who get that kind of access to presidential candidates live in Iowa, New Hampshire, or are assigned by clever campaign operatives to be "plants" in one of those phony pre-scripted town halls.
A lot of political and technology pundits, like Katharine Q. Seelye at The NYTimes, made a big deal out of the fact that this was the first debate in which questions were not scripted by either the candidate's campaigns or professional journalists. Therefore, the theory went, the answers would be more unpredictable...more real.
Well - not really.
Sure, there were more smiles and laughs during this debate than any other in my memory, but there were no "you're no John Kennedy" moments. The answers were still the ones you've heard from each candidate before. "Why aren't we outraged about our health care system!" (Edwards). ''One of the things I bring is a perspective ... that says Washington has to change.'' (Obama). ''I couldn't run as anything other than a woman.'' (duh).
There was not a single question chosen from the nearly 3,000 submitted on YouTube that caught any of the democratic hopefuls off guard. That's probably because each campaign had bleary-eyed workers combing through each and every video, prepping the candidate for any and all possible questions. And although the clips were submitted by "real" people -- a long-time TV news producer, CNN Washington Bureau chief David Bohrman, did the choosing.
Unscripted? You be the judge. Can any candidate be really, truly unscripted in the spin era?
Still, this was the closest we've come in a good, long time. And chances are this is the exciting, new direction that those old, boring, predictable presidential debates will now take. Whoever at CNN came up with the idea of teaming up with "the enemy" to present this "revolutionary debate" (as the first questioner from Portland, OR called it), deserves a big bonus.
By the end of the debate, my excitement over a new era of presidential politics had subsided, replaced by the blast of reality that spin is here to stay - and no-one is stupid/brave enough to break out of the spin cycle - at least until they are elected.
What did you think of last night's debate? If one of the candidates came knocking at your door, what would you ask them? Click below on "Comments" and tell us what you're thinking.
Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon.
Going to the candidate's debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio,
Our nation turns it's lonely eyes to you.
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson.
Jotting Joe has left and gone away,
Hey hey hey.