The debate was on Saturday, and I attended. See Mary’s commentary for the only possible substantive commentary on the debate. Why? Here’s the thing. I like Karl Dean. Bob Clement drives me nuts. I feel that the direction Nashville will take under one differs greatly from the other. But you wouldn’t have known that from the debate. They started the debate talking about how much they differ, and then proceeded to spend most of the debate agreeing with one another. They both want to improve education (whoa nelly, slow down there, really??), they’re both in favor of the convention center, they both don’t want taxes to be raised (whatever that means). Folks, they both dove for the center so hard they’re gonna come away with a concussion.
Dean, though, at least manages to separate himself by offering actual ideas. This is what I always found so appealing about Briley — Clement (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the candidates) seem to talk about the possibility of new ideas, the theoretical possibility of future changes. Briley would get up there and rattle off ideas as fast as he could speak. Dean has picked up on this a little, and is apparently willing to, you know, actually talk about what he’s going to do. Clement, on the other hand, seems content to just give the Bob Dole thumbs up and repeat “Good to great” like a Chatty Cathy. Come on, Bob, seriously.
The questions were better than I expected, despite being vetted, typed, proofread and orchestrated for the readers (which is always a real tribute to democracy at work, right?). I got a unique birds’ eye view from the media area of this orchestration at work — it was pretty impressive, I tell you what. The funniest part of the night was probably the newschannel5 question that won, which was about the Ghost Ballet. I don’t remember the exact wording, but I think it was something like “Do you like the Ghost Ballet, or do you think it’s ugly and weird, and was it a good use of the money?” (paraphrased). Both candidates did a good job (good in the machiavellian sense, not the objective sense) of laughing off the question without really answering it. They poked fun at it a little, but then said they like it, and they support the arts. A brusque answer to a seemingly shallow question with a deeper subtext. Should the government be spending $330K on public art? Is there anything else they could have spent it on? Oh well, I guess we’ll never know.
So, all in all, it was a boring debate. I think Dean came away looking a lot better, but I’m obviously fairly biased. Angry Bob Clement was out in full force.. I am not sure if that plays well with a lot of people, but to me he just strikes me as trying a little too hard. It’s like there’s a little switch between “sugary southern Bob” and “angry little man” Bob.
Side note: They had an awesome media room for live-blogging the debate, with closed-circuit TV and wireless access. And no one was there. No one. Come to think of it, the Ingram hall auditorium was only half full. What gives? No one cares about the mayoral election, I think. Sad but true.