By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Shales nails it

Tom Shales gets it exactly right in today’s Washington Post:

When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates’ debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

Indeed, it seemed like at least half the debate consisted of stupid hot-button questions that are of interest mainly to people who’ve already decided to vote Republican this fall. The bottom was reached when a voter named Nash McCabe, of Latrobe, Pa., asked by video: “Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag.”

That’s a question? Who would choose to air such idiocy?

More: “This was a travesty,” Michael Tomasky writes in the Guardian. But I’m puzzled by Tomasky’s and Shales’ both saying that Stephanopoulos was off his game. I try to watch as little of Stephanopoulos as possible, so I’m not a good judge. But his performance struck me as entirely in keeping with why I generally change the channel as soon as his smug face appears.

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  1. Berto

    I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one who was taken aback by the tone and tenor of the debate last night. I’m a die-hard Obama supporter, so it was impossible for me to know if the debate really was so off-kilter, or if it was my biases bleeding out.

  2. magschmooz

    I’ve seen too, too many of these, but the the first hour was the worst I’ve ever seen…The worst: the first question about running together, which Dopey Gibson tried to ‘hook’ onto the original founders.Perhaps he was not taught in Jr. High school that the founders never imagined a system ‘parties’ let alone partisan primary campaigns!The ‘first and second place finishers serving together had to do with the ELECTORAL COLLEGE vote…DUH!!!!

  3. Anonymous

    You are so right, Dan. I was infuriated by the first half hour, and encouraged when Obama kept trying to call them on it.

  4. Anonymous

    The whole thing was a horror. I made my kids watch it then halfway through said, “oh hell, we may as well switch to American Idol.” It was terrible and George and Charlie should be ashamed of themselves.

  5. Peter Porcupine

    DK – Welcome to my world.Let me take you back in time to the yesteryear of Republican debates. All ten of them, answering goofy questions. Remember the GOP YouTube debate with Bible Boy? At the time an exsperated Huckabee said, “NOT ONE question on education! From ANY of them!” Because the moderators were choosing the questions for maximum shock value.We’ve had 20 Presidential candidates this cycle – more if you count loons like Nader. NEVER has the M$M done so much to disgrace itself, and demonstrate why they are incompetent to guard the public trust.I say we give the whole shebang back to the League of Women Voters!

  6. Dan Kennedy

    PP: I’d gladly give it back to the League. And the YouTube debates might have worked if the community had gotten to pick the questions rather than CNN.

  7. Steve

    I missed the debate. When did they run the disclaimer that Stephanopoulos used to work for Hillary? At the beginning or at the end?

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Actually, Steve, that doesn’t bother me. It was a long time ago, and he was fairly brutal toward her, too, especially with regard to Richardson.

  9. Steve

    But didn’t they run a disclaimer? What’s wrong with a little transparency?And what does “a long time ago” mean in terms of this campaign? I mean, they’re going back 30-40 years in the candidates’ lives. Certainly there are issues in play here that date back to the time Stephanopoulos worked for her.

  10. Steve

    With regard to NAFTA in particular, which is certainly an issue in play (did it get discussed?), doesn’t Stephanopoulos’s work for Hillary date from that period?

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: Where would you stop? Merely to disclose that Stephanopoulos worked for the Clintons would be deceptive; you’d have to add “They hate each other’s guts.” That would be an interesting chyron, wouldn’t it?

  12. Don, American

    The curious part of Nash McCabe’s question was the fact that Obama’ answer appeared to be “No.”

  13. Steve

    If the schism was great enough, then hell yes I’d like to know. (And, no, I didn’t know that.) Especially if the break was over something that is an issue in the current campaign, like NAFTA, it would be germane.I’m tired of the lack of disclaimers in punditry. Like Andrea Mitchell holding forth on politics and economics on the Sunday shows without ever disclosing she’s married to Alan Greenspan. There are plenty of relationships like this that are seldom disclosed. Maybe I’m just clueless for not knowing all these relationships, but I don’t think so.

  14. Peter Porcupine

    DK – it WOULD be interesting to get an occasional honest statement from a debate moderator – just for variety’s sake!

  15. Anonymous

    Didn’t George Will try to chill out Reagan for his debate with Mondale while he was employed at ABC? Stefanopolous’s question about trying to find interesting tasks for W.Bush after ’08, might have been the stupidest I’ve ever heard.

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