I don't know any of the candidates very well- at least, not in the way I think is sufficient for me to judge them. All the information I really get about them are the headlines from the New York Times and CNN, and occasionally the New York Post. It's important, I feel, to get to know a candidate not just from his/her head-turning actions ("So-and-so raised that much money from those sources? So-and-so does not support gay marriage?"), but also from the things they did as governor or senator- the things that doesn't necessarily catch the media's attention, but it definitely helps the public.
Anyway, this debate really was a good way for me to get a feel for the Democratic candidates, and Gov. Bill Richardson really is standing out to me. I think that says a lot, especially since he has such flashy competitors, like Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden. Plus, I really appreciate that he has a great deal of experience in foreign policy and UN relations- which is really what this country needs right now: some coherent sense of direction in foreign diplomacy.
Some of the questions were extremely intelligent and well-thought-out. One that sticks out is a reverend saying that back when slavery was still present, politicians used the Bible as a justification for the oppression of black people. He goes on to ask how that is any different from the Bible-touting politicians who oppose gay marriage and civil unions. That question was directed to Sen. John Edwards, because he is from the South and has strong Catholic beliefs, and he also opposes gay marriage.
I was very impressed when Sen. Edwards said that the Reverend is right- that politicians should not use their faith as a justification on why there ought not to be gay marriage- even though he has indeed been guilty of doing so. He also said that his opposition to gay marriage is deeply personal to him. I saw that statement translate into layman terms: "I don't like gay marriage because I am not used to the idea of two men or two women having sex, and that action being legal and accepted in our present society." There were just ways that Sen. Edwards could have dodged that bullet, but he chose to just admit outright that it was wrong of him to quote the Bible for such an issue.
The final questions was by someone who said it was to lighten the mood. The Youtube user wanted each candidate to tell the person to the left of him/her one thing that they admire in the candidate, and one thing that they dislike. I thought that it was completely revelatory of each candidate and the way they answered. A good example would be Sen. Hillary Clinton saying that she admired Sen. Obama, just like she admires all the other candidates, and she ended there- to which Anderson Cooper says, "I take it that you're not going to answer the question." My favorite response was (if you can guess) Sen. Richardson's, where he went into great detail about Sen. Biden's contributions to America ("This man has devoted his whole life to public service...") His reply was good-humored and honest, unlike Sen. Biden's response to Sen. Dennis Kicinich ("I don't like a damn thing about this man- I'm only kidding.")
Finally, Youtube has also posted all the questions that aired on the Debate. I will include the link below.
I think that Anderson Cooper did a phenomenal job dogging the candidates to answer the question instead of veering off into a whole tangent of self-promotion. I clapped my hands every time he said, "So was that a yes or a no?" It's no secret that these responses that the candidates have are well-rehearsed verbal vomit that sometimes have no definite meaning behind the pretty words.
You should also surf around Youtube to find broken-up segments of the democratic debate.