Immediately following the YouTube debate, the format appeared to have been a success (this was partly due to the fact that I had reservations about it going in, so my expectations were probably low). That was my view, and it was shared by most other Townhall bloggers.
Sure, there were some outright crazy questions asked, but bad questions coming from average Americans are better than bad questions coming from a moderator, or so the reasoning went. Democracy is messy, and if you're going to empower average people to ask questions, you accept the notion that some of them won't be good ... Except that after the debate ended, we learned that many of the bad questions did not come from "average" Americans, they came from people connected to Democrat campaigns. This, of course, is unacceptable.
What is more, because it was initially regarded as a fine debate, CNN's inexcusable malfeasance was truly a disaster and a missed opportunity for them. Additionally, it might very well deter Republicans from participating in future YouTube debates.
Although conservatives are rightly outraged by the biased questions, I also believe some of the consternation is overwrought. For example, I do disagree with all hand-wringing about the contentious nature of the debate. Personally, I like to see the candidates mix it up, because I think that tells us something about how they handle pressure -- and how they react when they are under scrutiny (something that will come in handy in the White House). Bad questions sometimes tell us more about the candidates than good ones do. For example, we learned that Mike Huckabee can take a bad question and still make lemonade (if he can do it now, imagine what he could do to the press corps) ...
What is more, fighting it out in a Primary helps us select the toughest candidate to take on Hillary.
Ultimately, Republicans should be allowed to pick our own nominee -- and that's the entire argument for why the debate venue -- and moderator -- is important.
It should be noted that earlier this year, Townhall.com invited Republican candidates to participate in a conservative radio/online debate. At the time, the frontrunners were McCain, Rudy, and Romney.
To give you an idea of how a Townhall debate might have gone, it would have probably featured a moderator like Bill Bennett, instead of a moderator such as Anderson Cooper ...
Unfortunately, of the frontrunners invited, only Mitt Romney accepted our invitation.
So what's stopping Townhall.com -- or RedState -- or National Review -- from having our conservative readers submit YouTube questions to be answered by the GOP candidates?
Frankly, it's the candidates' willingness to participate...
If we're going to get away from the CNN's of the world, it will require the candidates to do their part in picking the venue that will be more favorable to them. That means saying "no" to CNN, and "yes" to conservative media outlets.