Can’t We Talk About Issues?

Posted by Katherine | April 17, 2008 – 10:36 am
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[desi.italy / Flickr]

Last night’s Democratic debate in Philly — specifically the performance by anchors Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos — has been widely panned: in the mainstream media, in the high-traffic political blogosphere, in thousands of outraged comments on ABC’s site, and by regular people writing on their personal blogs. (Exception: the high-octane right is not upset.) The focus of Democratic anger was the inanity and the perceived conservative slant of the duo’s questions. Here is a tiny sample of the frustration with the quality of last night’s journalism:

From a lawyer in Madison, WI, undisguised disgust at what he felt was the Republican line of questioning:

Apparent GOP operative Charlie Gibson needs to retract the false premise of his GOP tax talking point on the capital gains–or he should be fired. The whole debate was a disgrace. False talking points from Charlie Gibson, and a former Clinton staffer stooping to Sean Hannity tabloid trash (regarding the dubiously relevant Weather Underground story.) Just absolutely disgusting.

A small-business owner in Texas gave up because of the lack of substance:

Forty-five minutes and I finally turned away. Not a single issue or question of substance asked by cretins Gibson and Snufflelufagus. “Bitter-gate”, “Sniper-gate”, flag pins, Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, and just before I switched, the potential travesty of raising the capital gains tax.

Nothing about the wars, nothing about the economy, nothing about health care. No mention of the mortgage crisis, or $4.00 a gallon gasoline, or the recession we’re currently entering, for the entire first half of last night’s debate. Not a word about torture, or the plummeting value of the dollar, or global warming.

Barbara Wold in New Mexico agrees about the tabloidiness and feels it was too slanted against Obama:

The questions were mostly trivial “gotcha” attempts that had nothing to do with the challenges that face our nation and our planet. Way too many focused on Obama and his alleged a) lack of patriotism, b) dislike of the U.S. flag, c) former pastor, d) serving on a well respected board with an ex-60s radical. Dead horses beaten some more. Nonissues raised to prominence. Near total neglect of anything that matters to ordinary people facing rising challenges from every angle.

Of course when you have the questions being asked by the former happy talk co-host of Good Morning America and one of the Clinton administration’s senior advisors, you have a scene ready made for disaster. What we got was a video version of the National Enquirer. We all deserve better.

Last point: What I wanna know is why Hillary is never asked why she doesn’t wear a flag pin. She has lapels just like Obama. And they’re bare!

Not much doubt about the bitterness here.

It was harder to find substantive positive reactions to the debate, but here’s one from Bizblogger:

Charlie Gibson asked the single BEST question I have ever heard from a journalist during any debate. He pointed out to Obama that history proves that raising the capital gains tax rate lowers revenue and reducing the rate actually raises revenue. If that’s the case, he asked Obama, “why raise the rate at all?” Obama bobbed and weaved and said that we needed more revenue, etc. so Gibson asked the question again, pointing out that his logic and history “proves otherwise.” And Obama blundered badly. Absolutely brilliant question. I have a newfound respect for ABC News.

Bizblogger goes by the great moniker “Richie Rich.”


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