Second presidential debate town hall style
The second presidential tete-a-tete in Nashville on Tuesday was dubbed a “town hall” debate which freed Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain from the stodgy podiums and allowed them to roam around the stage to talk to the audience and cameras.
Often when members of the audience — 100 undecided Nashville voters identified by the Gallup polling company — asked a question, each candidate walked as close as he could and often thanked them by name for asking. Obama and McCain then paced back and forth across the stage to address the entire audience as they answered.
McCain, who loves the town hall format, got in one jibe against Obama for finally attending one after he failed to get him to agree to hold such discussions every week until the Nov. 4 election. “Senator Obama, it’s good to be with you at a town hall meeting,” McCain said.
When one candidate answered a question, the other typically sat on a tall chair listening and taking notes on a side table. On occasion, one would stand up while the other talked in anticipation of giving a response to refute one point or another.
The one obvious violation of the ground rules was going over the allotted time. The moderator, Tom Brokaw of NBC News, repeatedly pleaded with McCain and Obama to stay within the confines of the short responses.
“Gentlemen, you may not have noticed but we have lights around here. They have red and green and yellow and they are to signal…” he said, referring to the time allotments.
Brokaw vented further frustration with the candidates’ refusal to heed the time limits when Obama and then McCain insisted they needed to follow up on each others’ statements over Pakistan.
“I’m just the hired help here,” Brokaw said.
Obama replied, “You’re doing a great job, Tom” and then launched into a criticism of McCain’s comments on Pakistan.
– Additional reporting by Caren Bohan
– Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria