By virtue of its partnership with Google, Fox News on Thursday night put on a debate that outstripped its predecessors on tech chic. For starters, organizers ditched the out-of-time buzzer in favor of Google’s classic chime. Commentators used Google search data to teach lessons on how Americans are dealing with rough economic times.

Excellent stuff.

The YouTube crowdsourcing, however, didn’t go quite as well. Fox News/Google used an Internet voting scheme to determine what questions from the public ended up in front of the candidates. The scheme is democratic, webby, inclusive, clever — and, in most cases, in­cred­ibly boring.

All night long, the Fox News/Google-YouTube question-generating machine showed a tendency to tee up softballs for the candidates. For instance, we heard how a guy named Butch Russell had some amazingly-rated question for the candidates on foreign policy. Oh, the tension! I couldn’t wait for this killer gotcha query from Russell.

Then Russell came forth and asked when we’d get someone in the White House who’d “stand up to these other countries” and tell them they can’t have any of our money.

Newt Gingrich lost not a stride in belting out an answer to this friendly query: “Our bureaucrats giving their bureaucrats money is a guaranteed step toward corruption,” said the former House speaker. YAY!

A couple who felt very passionately about states’ rights posed a question about the balance of power between states and the federal government. They remarked that the government was way too big. How to control it?

So to whom did this question go? Hmmm, think we can find an inveterate libertarian on the stage? Someone who’ll find this one particularly easy?

Go right ahead, Ron Paul. The 12-term congressman called on the muscles he’s been flexing for decades, vowing to “veto every single bill that violates the 10th Amendment.” YAY!

Ideological affinities raged when another voted-in questioner rocked the Republican crowd by asking just what they’d do about the “overreach” of the government in the arena of education.

God, what a way to get the GOP hopefuls to scratch their heads!

Michele Bachmann, of course, has been auditioning for just this kind of question for her entire political life. Her sound bite went through the janitorial tasks she’d undertake in shutting down the federal Department of Education — stuff like turning out the lights and closing the door. YAY!

Not all of the crowdsourcers proved ideologically compatible with the candidates. One man posed a question about gays in the military. Another asked about what he’d do if he were to lose the protections of President Obama’s health-care initiative.

Both tough questions. Too bad that once they were asked, they didn’t get a full airing among the candidates. That's in part because the news personalities running the debate didn’t keep pushing. That’s my Fox!

Give me Brian Williams, give me John Harris, give me Wolf Blitzer. They’re all better than YouTube.