Pre-debate: "Surely we are at the point where we're beyond sound bites."
Prior to the debate, Campbell Brown moderated a panel with Michael, Christiane Amanpour, John King, Anderson Cooper, Jeffrey Toobin, David Gergen, and Gloria Borger.
As is to be expected with the cast-of-thousands coverage, each reporter/pundit got very little time to discuss the issues -- Michael was asked only two questions during the hour. These are those individual clips, but I will be archiving complete coverage of the panel later.
CAMPBELL BROWN: Welcome back, everybody.
We are about 45 minutes away from the start of the debate at Ole Miss down in Oxford, Mississippi, everybody looking forward to this moment that we have been waiting for, riding the roller-coaster ride of today, wondering whether it was going to happen or not. But it is on. John McCain will be there. And we are back with the best political team on television, or, as Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, the best political team in the world, because we have Michael Ware and Christiane Amanpour with us tonight. And we're taking full advantage of it.
And, Michael, let me pick up where we left off with you and talk a little bit about Iraq. You have spent so much time there. This was very much considered to be a strength for John McCain...
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
BROWN: ... especially with the success of the surge, how he would be able to highlight that. But if you look at the polling now, where Iraq falls in terms of people's priorities, I think it is number four in our latest CNN poll, health care ahead of it, and certainly the economy ahead of it, terrorism more generally ahead of it.
Is, in a way, John McCain a victim of his own success? Americans aren't paying attention to Iraq. They don't want to talk about it. They want to talk about the Iraq, so he doesn't get to highlight where he was on many of those issues.
WARE: Well, it cuts both ways, really. I mean, obviously, for people back home, these day-to-day issues are much more salient. They're front and center. That's what people are living, you know, dawn to dusk. So, that's what people care about.
And Iraq... Iraq is a double-edged sword for Senator McCain. Yes, it's been one of the center points of his credibility as a potential leader in international affairs, but he has got so much wrong on Iraq as well. And the more and more he and even Senator Obama stick to these -- this trite sort of sound-biting of "the surge, the surge, the surge," it's evident that they're dumbing it down, the complexities of the war in Iraq.
And the more they hammer that point, success or failure, the more they're revealing or they're telling us that they're not looking at the real issues, like, what is the surge? It goes far beyond 30,000 extra combat troops. I mean, we are talking about a whole host of factors. And, at the end of the day, the success we are seeing in Iraq comes with a heavy price tag.
And to just keep rabbiting on about the surge ignores the real issues that will face the next president.
CAMPBELL BROWN: And able to get into, Michael Ware, I think some of the nuance that we talked about especially on issues like Iraq, which is very difficult to ask these candidates to do when they're asked to give two or three-minute answers.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And surely we are at the point where we're beyond sound bites. I mean, the American public unless I'm reading them wrong --
JEFFREY TOOBIN: Michael, you've really been gone from America for a long time.
WARE: Yes. It's just one too many bullets, there, Jeff. Nothing like a front line to make it real. But, you know, I think America's hungry for something real.
I mean, aren't we tired of this pastiche, I mean, this veneer? I mean, people want a real conversation. We want to know what we're really getting.
BROWN: Well, we'll see.
WARE: So let's actually -- let's actually hear from these people.
BROWN: Well, we might tonight. Who thinks we will? Gloria?
BORGER: I do, I do. I mean, look, we've had how many debates during the primaries where you had candidates really going at each other in some of those debates including ours.
COOPER: I also think given what's gone on in the last week, people -- I mean, people -- it's down to brass tacks and people, you know, their livelihood is at stake and they want to hear answers.
BROWN: Such an important point.