The recent YouTube presidential debate -- the oxymoronic event of history's longest political season -- has been dubbed "groundbreaking" and "historic."
Let's also add "ridiculous."
Not that the concerns of snowmen aren't perfectly valid, of course. One of the questions posed during the CNN-sponsored "debate" came from a talking snowman who cited global warming as the most important issue for snowmen.
"What will you do to ensure that my son will live a full and happy life?" he asked the Democratic candidates.
And not that it isn't important to know what each candidate likes and dislikes about the other. In another taped question culled from about 3,000 submitted for consideration, each candidate was asked to turn to his or her left and say what he or she likes and doesn't like about that person.
Brilliant. If you're 5.
John Edwards turned to Hillary Clinton and said he wasn't sure about her coral-colored coat. Barack Obama said, "I actually like Hillary's jacket."
And everybody felt all better.
Some questions were serious, including one about health care for illegal immigrants and another about Iraq -- but too many of the 39 were beyond silly.
YouTube invites silliness, which is part of its appeal, but inviting so-called "ordinary Americans" to film themselves posing questions to presidential candidates does not advance democracy, no matter how much hoopla we manufacture.
Joe Biden came close to showing his disdain for this insult to American intelligence, such as it is, when a Michigan fellow asked whether he and his Second Amendment buddies could be sure their "babies" would be safe. He then cradled his own baby, a military-grade automatic weapon.
Biden said he wasn't sure the fellow was "mentally qualified to own that gun."
Even if the candidates were irritated by this faux show of democratic connectivity, they had no choice but to participate. If you refuse to play with the YouTubies, you risk being viewed as elitist and out of touch with Tha Peepul.
Thus, they all seemed relieved when a question was so silly that they could break from pretending to take the evening seriously. The candidates smiled broadly as two Gomers at RedStateUpdate.com wondered if it "hurt y'all's feelin's" that everybody talks about Al Gore all the time.
Naw, heck, no.
Arguments favoring the debate have circled around the notion that this techie-feely approach would attract The Young 'n' Restless -- that hallowed demographic of 18-to-34-year-olds so coveted by advertisers, newspaper publishers and politicians.
Turnout, alas, was less than spectacular. A total of 2.6 million watched the debates -- 6 percent fewer than watched a more traditional debate from New Hampshire in June. Of those, 407,000 were ages 18-34, only slightly more than the 368,000 among the June audience.
Some critics have noted that the debate wasn't sufficiently democratic because CNN editors selected the final questions. Given that the questions aired apparently were considered the best of the lot, insufficient democracy would seem to be one of the few achievements of the evening. What genius, one wonders, lies undiscovered on the cutting room floor?
Otherwise, the only conclusion to draw from this exercise is that Republicans, scheduled for a similar trivializing gantlet in September, should decline. Let's give the Democratic candidates applause for gamesmanship, but concede that playing buffoon to the masses is not a requirement for the presidency.
If it is necessary to submit to anything demanded by anyone, then no one worthy will run for public office. To wit: At a recent off-the-record dinner party, a congressman was asked who he thought would make a good president. His response was telling:
"Do you mean among those running or those qualified people who won't run because they're unwilling to submit to the humiliation of our political process?"
Commenting on that process recently, Newt Gingrich doubtless spoke for many when he called the debates "auditions" and ridiculed "the idea of 10 or 11 people standing passively at microphones." He said he refused to "shrink to the level of 40-second answers, standing like a trained seal, waiting for someone to throw me a fish."
If America deserves a better candidate, it would seem that candidates real and hoped-for also deserve a better America.