TV-Duell: The Merkel - Steinbrück Televised Debate
Okay, I was able to watch the entire debate live-streamed via ARD and here are my initial thoughts:
For me personally the debate was something of a disappointment since all but the final 15 minutes of the 90-minute debate was devoted to German domestic politics, and I am more interested in foreign policy issues (especially Syria and NSA). I like the American system where we have separate debates for domestic and foreign affairs. That said, I thought Steinbrück came across quite forcefully, particularly in regards to his constant emphasis on the need for a living minimum wage. He kept pointing out that millions of Germans were not participating in the nations prosperity. Merkel was effective in referring to her past close collaboration with Steinbrück when he was finance minister in the Grand Coalition.
When the questions finally turned to the NSA, both candidates managed to avoid histrionics. Steinbrück may have scored some points by accusing Merkel's government of being "nonchalant" (lässig) in addressing concerns about the spying program to the US partner. But Steinbrück also acknowledged that Edward Snowden had committed crimes under US law, even though he was glad that the leaks had brought the spy issue to the forefront.
On Syria, I thought Angela Merkel had the better response. Steinbrück condemned the US for contemplating unilateral action. Merkel insisted that only a unified international response was appropriate and she would be speaking directly with Vladimir Putin concerning Germany's position. Most importantly, she condemned in no uncertain terms Syria's use of poison nerve gas on its own population, in contravention to every international law and norm.
Overall, I thought Peer Steinbrück won the debate. Whether his performance will convince many undecided voters to vote SPD is, however, doubtful.
BTW, I really enjoyed the questions posed by Stefan Raab. He was able to liven up what was otherwise a rather dull affair.