Debating pointers

Advice to local TV stations
By JOHN CARROLL  |  September 27, 2006

EXTRA, EXTRA!: Blue Mass Group’s creepy anti-Healy video on YouTube.
TO: Local television executives

FROM: “Spin Cycle”

RE: Upcoming gubernatorial debates

Well, folks, Fox 25 certainly set the bar with its debate broadcast Monday night, don’t you think? So with that in mind, here are some helpful hints for the bake-offs to come.

Maximize your opening graphics. Fox 25’s “Battle for the Statehouse” theme segued nicely into their Fight Night in Dedham candidate introductions, although they should have given the height, weight, and reach of the contenders. But the station really missed the boat by not having a tuxedo-clad ring announcer saying, “Let’s get ready to ramble!”

Don’t bill celebrities as “voters.” Moderator Chris Wallace promoted the debate’s “unique twist” of including voter questions, which has actually been around since the time of Cicero. But what’s with Shonda (wife of Curt) Schilling and Jasper (no relation to Kevin) White quizzing the candidates via video? C’mon, guys. We’re always busting the candidates’ chops about truth in advertising. Let’s try to set a good example, yeah?

Level the earpiece playing field. For the first half of the debate, Deval Patrick looked like he was auditioning for the lead in some community-stage adaptation of The Bodyguard. Mercifully, the Fox 25ers hid Patrick’s earpiece for the second half of the proceedings. Too little, too late.

Skip the post-debate candidate interviews. How weird was that, having the four opponents do postmortem interviews like it was some juiced-up episode of Judge Judy? Better to have them play Yahtzee for bragging rights.

Blue Mass Groupies?
It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of the liberal blog Blue Mass Group (BMG) over the course of this election. A month ago David Kravitz, one of the Blue Mass guys, told “Spin Cycle” they started the site “to try to elect a Democratic governor . . . We initially envisioned it as a platform to talk up candidates we wanted to back.”

The talk grew into an endorsement of Deval Patrick in the Democratic primary. Now that Patrick has moved on to a general-election battle with Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, BMG has moved on too, recently posting a couple of anti-Healey spots on the video-sharing site YouTube.

One of the videos features creepy organ music and Psycho-style sound effects as the voiceover ties Healey, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney together in a nice little package that’s “too extreme for Massachusetts.” The other mocks Healey as having accomplished essentially nothing her entire life.

Asked whether BMG is still comfortable billing itself as “reality-based commentary on politics and policy,” BMGer Bob Neer replied in an e-mail, “I think we’d say that Deval Patrick is the ‘reality-based’ candidate in the race for Governor. Kerry Healey, by contrast, is the Republican candidate: the party that claims the Iraq insurgency was ‘in its final throes’ months ago, and that Michael Brown did a ‘heckuva job’ coordinating the federal response to Katrina.”

Neer went on to question Healey’s reality-based bona fides, concluding with “It seems pretty clear that of the two parties the Republicans, and their candidate, have a weaker grip on reality in this election cycle.”

Feels a bit circular, but, hey, why get technical about it?

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