Thursday, April 17, 2008

A brief comment on the debate

The general view seems to be that the ABC News Democratic Debate ("Obama versus Clinton") was a pathetic display of tabloid journalism, with a few "gotcha" questions thrown in for good measure. There was little discussion of actual policy issues, and Clinton's steady barrage of cheap shots clearly threw Obama off his game.

Obama definitely lost the debate.

But Clinton didn't do very well either. Her attacks came off as petty and nasty, and she didn't offer much in the way of vision. Telling voters that you have a detailed and convoluted "plan" for every crisis facing the nation simply doesn't pass the smell test. I think this is the kind of crap that hurt John Kerry in 2004 much more than the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth malarkey. It is, frankly, far more elitist to pretend you have all the answers than to suggest that people in Pennsylvania may be bitter for having lost their jobs, or that Republicans use wedge issues like illegal immigration and gun licensing to win elections.

Still, Clinton seized every opportunity to land a punch, and I'd say that Obama left the debate a looking a bit shaken. Obama still seems surprised when she hits below the belt with bullshit innuendos and outright assaults on his credibility, and this easily plays into Clinton's "lack of experience" narrative. He doesn't seem to realize that she has no limits and no sense of shame.

For me, the most disturbing thing about the whole debate was that George Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton political strategist and Clinton White House official, was one of the moderators. His question about Rev. Wright's patriotism ("Do you think that Rev. Wright is as patriotic as you, Sen. Obama?") was completely beyond the pale, and Obama seemed like he wanted to strangle the guy. The question about William Ayers as also pretty ridiculous, and it now appears that it was originally suggested to Stephanopoulos by Sean Hannity. Obama got a good dig in, noting that Bill Clinton had actually pardoned several members of the Weather Underground, but I have a feeling this is going to come back to bite him.

All in all, I think it was a terrible debate, and I think ABC should really have considered the conflict of interest that Stephanopoulous may have presented here.

But, of course, that would take some sense of etiquette, which the MSM now seems to lack entirely.

1 comment:

MediaMaven said...

What I don't understand is how ABC didn't realize or didn't want to acknowledge the huge conflict of interest of having George Stephanopoulos moderate the debate. This is an issue that is always in the forefront of many media and politically-minded people, and something that we're warned of again and again in public relations. After all, it was only last week that Mark Penn was fired because of his supposed conflict of interest with one of Hillary's policies. These things are only going to backfire.