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

Worst debate ever?

David Gregory

The second Senate debate between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren ended a little while ago. And though I thought they both had their moments, with Brown a bit better than he was in the first debate, the entire affair was overwhelmed by the ego-driven, substance-free performance of moderator David Gregory.

He opened with the Native American thing because, you know, we haven’t heard it before. Near the end, he asked if the candidates thought the Red Sox should bring back Bobby Valentine. He preened about Simpson-Bowles like the Beltway insider that he is (Paul Krugman explains). And he turned what should have been a substantive discussion about real issues into a fiasco.

All in all, a miserable performance.

Update: Some smart instant analysis by Adam Reilly of WGBH.

Photo (cc) by Peter Bond and republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.


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  1. Did R D Sahl get pwned on NECN? Right after the debate he was interviewing what purported to be a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent. The Democrat and the Republican responded reasonably and predictably, but the Independent started raving about Romney, to the point that it sounded to me like she worked for his campaign. I don’t know who this woman was, but she was definitely no Independent.

    • Al Fiantaca

      Michael. Agreed. However, just because someone claims the classification of independent, or unenrolled, it does not follow that they do not have strong, reliable histories of voting for one party or the other.

  2. Agreed, Dan. Why did the sponsors agree to import a moderator who knows nothing about Massachusetts? It was clear Gregory knew next to nothing about the issues important to us here (and although I’m a partisan here, I doubt that is a partisan reaction). It was a horrible choice.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: No, I don’t think you’re being partisan at all. Conservative friends of mine were incensed at Gregory as well. He was just awful. This is for you and @Pete.

      • Steve Rhode

        On the contrary, it seems like it took an outsider to ask them some direct questions that no locals dare to ask. And I don’t think it is ego to insist that the candidates answer the question that was asked. I will take that over a “moderator” (Jon Keller) who throws batting practice questions and lets the candidates get away with rolling into their stump speeches as answers.

        • Dan Kennedy

          Should Bobby Valentine stay or go? I’m an outsider, so I insist you answer!

  3. Hi Dan,
    Gee, my wife and I watched this from beginning to end, and we both thought Gregory was outstanding – specifically for his sturdy effort to get each of the participants to ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTIONS.

    • jeffrey churchill

      I thought the same. I don’t care if Gregory exercises his ego if he gets a candidate to say something beyond a commercial – particularly as one of the candidates does not put forth position statements on a website (unless you grant email permission).

  4. Dan Kennedy

    More good stuff, from Charles Pierce: “David Gregory is the last of the replacement referees.”

  5. Laurence Glavin

    On WBZ-AM radio this morning, they played a tape of Senator Brown saying he selected Antonin Scalia as one of his favorites on the Supreme Court for the quality of his SCHOLARSHIP. SCHOLARSHIP? Um, “scholarship” also has content, and on that basis he may think highly of Karl Marx as well. If he’s re-elected and President Obama is re-elected. and the latter sends up a Supreme Court nominee whom the Republican leadership (probably Mitch McConnell, for whom Brown will assuredly vote) opposes, Senator Brown will vote no or to filibuster the nomination if you can do that, no matter who that nominee is.

    • Gee. I guess liberals were so busy booing when Brown mentioned Scalia that they didn’t listen to the rest of the sentence when he also praised Kennedy for his ‘thoughtfulness’. When Gregory insisted that he couldn’t like both, Brown laughed and said that was the nice thing about BEING an independent – that he COULD appreciate both. But you had to see the debate instead of just reading the AP or listening to truncated quotes on WBZ to know that.

      BTW – I was at a debate watching party, and we took bets about who Warren would say when it came to her. My friends all thought Ginsburg, but I was the only one to nail it with Kagan. Warren’s opinions are usually easy to predict.

      • Dan Kennedy

        @Cynthia: Seemed to me that when Brown got booed, he started scrambling to see if he could name all nine members of the Court. Among other things, he named Sotomayor, who’s to the left of Kagan — and who he voted against.

      • Mike Benedict

        If Brown’s an independent, he should run as an independent. But he’s not. He’s a Romney Republican, which means he says whatever he thinks he needs to say to survive. My question is, how does he walk without a spine?

      • @DK – even it that’s your opinion, don’t you think there’s some obligation to REPORT the second half of the statement? With Kennedy, it really was all one line. Of course, Warren can’t even name a single GOP that she’s willing to work with – not even naming one that she worked with on financial reform that she said voted with her recommendations unanimously.

      • Mike Benedict

        CE: Should a candidate’s (stated) willingness to work with the other party be a defining factor in the voter’s decision? Is it more important than the the candidate’s priorities matching those of the voter’s?

      • Mike – why would those things be mutually exclusive? But since the question was being asked in the context of partisan gridlock, isn’t a willingness to work with others – or at least name an EXAMPLE of somebody you’d be WILLING to work with – important?

        As I wrote in a recent column – ‘Are we seriously concerned that the progressive point of view is underrepresented in the MA delegation’?

        Can’t there be SOMEBODY who at least talks to the 36% of the MA electorate who voted for John McCain?

        A quick and unscientific example. On WBZ this morning they were reporting a poll that 83% of MA voters favor a picture ID law. Let’s say that’s too high and call it only 70%. Warren adamantly opposes this – does her failure to match the priorities of the voters disqualify her? I mean, who DECIDES the priorities of the voters? I would say the voters themselves, but most progressives think they know best for those poor, deluded souls and they will HELP them.

      • Mike Benedict

        It’s pretty clear that a Voter ID law would be very low on the Commonwealth’s list of priorities. Talk about a solution in search of a problem. And, like anything else, the response is tied to how the question was asked.

        But put that aside for a moment, and try to remember your Civics class. We live in a republic, not a democracy. The basis for our entire government is the notion that a certain segment of the population is wiser than the rest of the electorate. So mock away, but you are mocking the original progressives: the Framers.

      • Mike – it would be easier to make a case that the Framers were the original One Percent. But I’m glad to see you openly acknowlege a tenet that underlies the Warren (and Obama) campaigns – that “a certain segment of the population is wiser than the rest of the electorate”. It’s why voters find their earnest smarminess so repellant.

      • Mike Benedict

        If voters find Warren’s and Obama’s “earnest smarminess so repellant” [sic], why are they leading the polls?

      • Mike Benedict

        And being wealthy doesn’t mean you can’t be progressive. Unless, of course, you don’t think Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are rich.

  6. Steve Rhode

    Dan – ask Martha Coakley whether questions about the Red Sox matter…

    I will stick with my original assessment. Why did it take months for someone to ask Brown whether he had any evidence that Warren benefited by claiming her heritage? Why did it take months for anyone to ask Warren whether she regrets her involvement with the Traveler’s case?

    To quote Bob Dylan – “the newspapers they all went along for the ride”.

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