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Special Weekend Wag the Blog: Debating the Debate

Even before Wednesday night's debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton ended, the protests about it from some within the Democratic Party had begun.

Obama supporters slammed the proceedings as a "gotcha" fest in which ABC moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos worked in tandem with Clinton to barrage the front-runner over trivialities for the entire first half of the debate.

Clinton backers, on the other hand, claimed the debate was (finally) a leveling of the playing field, with Obama being forced to run the sort of gauntlet of scrutiny that Clinton faced in debate after debate throughout 2007.

In the past 72 hours, the debate over the debate has grown even more fierce. Here's a look at few of the major developments:

* Moveon.org, which is supporting Obama in the primary, organized an online petition drive decrying the alleged lack of issues discussed in the debate. "Enough is enough," read the petition in part. "The public needs the media to stop hurting the national dialogue in this important election year."

* The Post's own Tom Shales penned a column decrying the debate and the performance of the two ABC debate moderators. "Obama was right on the money when he complained about the campaign being bogged down in media-driven inanities and obsessiveness over any misstatement a candidate might make along the way, whether in a speech or while being eavesdropped upon by the opposition," wrote Shales.

* Obama's campaign used the perceived imbalance in the debate to raise money -- sending out an e-mail solicitation entitled "Gotcha" and asking for $25 donations to counter the perceived bias.

* Stephanopoulos, in an interview with Politico's Michael Calderone, defended his performance and that of his network on Wednesday night. "We asked tough but appropriate questions," Stephanopoulos said.

* Clinton insisted the content of the debate was just fine by her and that Obama should be ready for much worse from Republicans if he winds up as the nominee. "I'm with Harry Truman on this: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," Clinton said yesterday in Pennsylvania. "Just speaking for myself, I'm very comfortable in the kitchen."

* Politico's John Harris and Jim VandeHei posted a piece arguing that the debate was not all that different from past set-to's, but that the "unfair to Obama" narrative has taken hold because of the media's willingness to buy into the Obama campaign's spin.

"The shower of indignation on Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos over the last few days is the clearest evidence yet that the Clintonites are fundamentally correct in their complaint that she has been flying throughout this campaign into a headwind of media favoritism for Obama," the duo write.

For this weekend's Wag the Blog, we want to hear from Fixistas on this debate over the debate. Did the ABC moderators cross the line with its questions of Obama? Or was it no different than earlier debates accept that it was Obama -- not Clinton -- in the crosshairs?

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 19, 2008; 10:41 AM ET
Categories:  Wag The Blog  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: McCain's Innovators and Trailblazers
Next: Obama & Clinton in Full 'Outrage' Mode

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the cable news net works were atrociously bias the last few dy leading up to the primary day. they open negatively on obama,and for 2 third of the broadcast ,it was anti obama,and to top it off, larry king live had on that eve and it played 2-3 times that night, coincidence, i dont think so. Ohio, pa,shows you how the predices are in those states. it wasnt about the issues, it wasabout shallow thinking. if i still lived in pa, i would start a movement to oust rendell and mayor nutter. he let them use the blacks and as you see by the head lines white males, older white women,they had no use for the blacks .they as much said they dont need you.shame on the blacks in both of those states

Posted by: ronn allen | April 23, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Hillary gets piled on and questioned over superficialities all the time. This time, with serious questions about his judgement (which he touts as his strong suit), Obama starts to whine. Well what does he think the Republicans will do to the nominee - whoever it is? And does he really think that if he whines, they will stop the attacks?
He reminds me of a guy I worked with - adequate at his job, but not the best of the bunch. Yet everytime he was criticized (legitimately) he accused management of picking on him because of his race. And the scared white guys backed off. Eventually, the guy was promoted - and failed miserably. He didn't have the experience necessary for the job but had been treated with kid gloves because he hollered "racism" everytime he was corrected. I see many similarities in Obama's behavior.

Posted by: DemmyVet | April 21, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

and there goes my last abc viewing

Posted by: Obama2008 | April 21, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

and there goes my last abc viewing

Posted by: Obama2008 | April 21, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

At this point, I am frankly skeptical that any media organization wants feedback from us peons on this receiving end of the journalistic divide. Let's face it, as with most issues, there are opinions from A to Z on the so-called debate about the debate, not just from us but from some of your own journalistic colleagues and from respected politicians. In other words, there is clearly a large cross-section of the people at large who are trying to get across a point that the other portion of the people wants to deny: that ABC at least to some degree failed in its role of bringing debate substance to the viewer-voters by virtue of the trivial, tabloid nature of the questions in the first half of the debate. But 97% of the news media is in denial about that fact. They want to presume that they make no such mistakes, and, furthermore, that what their colleagues at ABC have done is completely appropriate, professional, and objective. Fine. Lovely. Since you seem to have the power of the last word in this medium, that makes you always right. Obama and Clinton may be coerced to give apologies for misstatements or failure to wear certain lapel jewelry, but you apparently don't have to operate by those standards. Congratulations.

Posted by: Jon. S. | April 21, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

UNBELIEVABLE !!! Check out the YOU TUBE Video of Hillary's supporter ED RENDELL AND FARRAKAHN. ( WoW )!!

Posted by: willvickie | April 21, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I know Hillary has been playing the victim all campaign season, but if you look back at the questions from previous debates. They were much closer to balanced and about substance. Remember she tripped up on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, hardly an unfair question. I think the equivalent to this debate would be if she got asked about reportedly saying screw em about white voters, asked if she used PI to intimidate Bill's mistresses and so on. If Hillary were vetted in the same way she things Obama needs to be, she would be in trouble.

Posted by: Julian | April 21, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

The content of this "debate" reminded me of my reasons for turning in my pay TV box. It's simply not worth the money!

The news is all about distraction - especially distraction from what they are really doing in DC. Have you ever noticed that it gets a lot louder and more distracting when the politicians are getting ready to scr** us again?

Except for PBS (which I can get with an antenna); the Discovery and History channels (I do miss them); and a few movies, there's really nothing there for me. And if I want a movie, I can rent or buy it.

I have no desire to watch non-debates and business as usual in politics.

BTW - I have had 60 plus years of watching American politics in action, so I do know whereof I speak.

Posted by: wwwqueen | April 21, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama seemed puzzled. Angrily puzzled. The apostle of hope seemed flummoxed by the audacity of the question.

At the April 16 Philadelphia debate, George Stephanopoulos, longtime aide to Democratic politicians, was asking about his longtime association with Weather Underground bomber William Ayers.

Obamaites live-blogging the debate were outraged. The press is not supposed to ask such questions. They are supposed to invite the candidates to expatiate on how generous their health care plans are. Or to allow them to proclaim that "we are the change that we are seeking." Or to once again bash George W. Bush.

There was some of that in this debate. But Obama was also asked about his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his remarks about wearing an American flag lapel pin, his comment that "bitter" small-town Pennsylvanians "cling to guns and religion" and his "friendly" relations -- "friendly" is his campaign adviser David Axelrod's word -- with William Ayers.

Did Obama expect that this would never come up in the campaign? He certainly gave that impression.


Obama fans are upset that ABC News's Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson broke the unwritten rule that you are not supposed to ask Democratic candidates about these things.

Associations with unrepentant radicals and comments made to contributors at a San Francisco fund-raiser in a billionaire's mansion are supposed to be kept indoors. Only the face that the candidate wants to place before the public should be seen.

Beliefs that most activist liberals share should be kept under wraps if they are unpopular with most of the voting public.

That is how mainstream media have operated for the last generation or more. But not at Philadelphia's Constitution Center on April 16. The rules had changed.

And Barack Obama was not well prepared.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTFlYWNiN2I1MTQ1OWM2ZTNmNWM4M2U5NmZkMTVmYTg=

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 21, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Obama is trying to change the subject, but he lost his cool demeanor when ABC News questioners Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos returned to his San Francisco statement (among other difficult issues) in Wednesday's debate. In watching campaign debates dating back to Kennedy-Nixon in 1960, I never before had seen a candidate criticize the moderator or challenge his premises so often (on at least eight occasions). "Look, let me finish my point here, Charlie," said Obama, after Gibson had interrupted him following a 126-word answer.

Posted by: Bob Novak | April 21, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Castlereagh - Russia is #8.

Posted by: Dave@ | April 21, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

JohnLocker,
There is a connection between the war and higher gas prices. It is really how we are funding the war which is partly responsible for the weakening of the dollar which is partially to blame for the higher oil prices. That is the limited connection.

Posted by: Dave! | April 21, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Metternich - "Dave, higher gas taxes over the past decade, or two, would have reduced consumption and encouraged research on alternative energy sources"

Really? Over the last decade gas prices have gone from about $1 to 3.50 with no discernable decrease in consumption. It would have taken substantially higher gas taxes (in the order of a several dollars a gallon) to do this since demand for gas is highly inelastic. Aside from being political suicide to do this, it would have accomplished the same problems that we are currently facing - fuel prices are pushing up the cost of many other items and pushing us into recession. A gas tax like that is also quite regressive.

"Let me ask you: what do you think is in store for us? Higher gas prices still?"

Yes. But market forces will begin to do what it appears your goal is - to look to adopting alternative fuels and curb, if ever so slightly, consumption (actually the recession will probably help in this regard). Only it might not force bad solutions on us like the governments endorsement of ethanol.

"do you agree that Iran and Saudi Arabia are getting even richer than they already are off of our (U.S.) money?"

Yes this trend continues. Would I prefer that the US get its energy needs from our own capacity? Sure. But we don't/can't drill in our back yard. Coal, a resource we do have, is apparently problematic for the environment. We don't do nuclear. We have NIMBY issues with wind and solar. Solar is relatively expensive too. Ethanol just pushes up food prices. I am with you on wanting to lessen dependence on oil but I don't think we get out of it by taxing and having government beaurocrats decide on the best way. It is a question of political and national will, not tax revenues.

"And lastly, what does their increased wealth portend for the USA?"

I don't know what it portends. One could make the case that if they would spend it on the health and welfare of their citizens, that would be beneficial. If they spend it on fueling anti-western thoughts and hatrid, it is detrimental. My perception is that there is a little of both of those going on.

Posted by: Dave! | April 21, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"Canada (#2 on the list of oil reserves)"

Where is Russia?

Posted by: Castlereagh | April 21, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

So, Dave, do you think that there is no connection between the invasion and occupation of Iraq and higher oil prices? None whatsoever?

Posted by: JohnLocker | April 21, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"taxing gas... the US govt would have had more money to waste"

You mean like spending $400,000,000 PER DAY in Iraq, Dave???

Posted by: drindl | April 21, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

JohnLocker - "Two, the US invasion of a Middle East country sitting on the 2nd largest oil reserves has greatly destabilized the region."

Canada (#2 on the list of oil reserves) is not in the Middle East and the US did not invade them. Or maybe I missed it.

"Oil was $25 a barrel before the invasion; what is it today?"

More. Interestingly enough in 1999 oil was 16.55 a barrel and in 2000 it was 27.40. How could this be as there was no war going on in the ME? Could it have something to do with world demand vs supply, the strength of the dollar and oil futures speculation?

Posted by: Dave! | April 21, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Dave, higher gas taxes over the past decade, or two, would have reduced consumption and encouraged research on alternative energy sources.

Let me ask you: what do you think is in store for us? Higher gas prices still?

And furthermore, do you agree that Iran and Saudi Arabia are getting even richer than they already are off of our (U.S.) money?

And lastly, what does their increased wealth portend for the USA?

Posted by: Metternich | April 21, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Well, Nico Putney did an analysis of the various debates and counted the questions posed to both Obama and Clinton to find that indeed Obama's treatment at the ABC debate was far worse than Clinton ever got.
Here's the link

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/04/20/debate-analysis-abc-asked_n_97599.html

I'm glad that at least one person has made the effort to actually do some quantifying. I don't know Mr. Putney's preference in the election, but assuming it is for Obama - well then Hillary and McCain supporters can and should do their own counting up of actual questions posed, so that we're talking about more than just how things "seem" depending on who the individual is rooting for in the election (and who they want to see destroyed). Even if the results are "spun", it's still something to work from.

Posted by: Barbara | April 21, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

The ABC debate was important. The debate measured character.Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos had the courage to ask tough questions. Senator Obama failed. Senator Barack Obama had a free press for a long time. The ABC debate pointed out the lack of media scrutiny toward Senator Obama. After the debate, even Tim Russert changed his tone and questions against Axerold in Meet The Press on Sunday, 4/20/08. Bravo! Wake up Media! NO Obama. Vote smart. Vote for experience. Vote for Senator Hillary Clinton. She is a fighter.

Posted by: Maria | April 21, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Metternich - "Had we "paid ourselves" rather than paying the Saudis and Iranians, by slowly but steadily, increasing our own gas tax, we would have all those billions, rather than they."

Actually, they would have still had the billions because taxing gas would do little if anything to curb price or encourage conservation, the US govt would have had more money to waste, the and people of the US would have been poorer because gas prices would be even higher than what they have been. What a hugely ridiculous statement.

Posted by: Dave! | April 21, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

We are who we are.

Yes, I am aware of the massive transfer of wealth that is underway. So be it...

Some Americans will focus on the major geo-strategic shifts. But MOST Americans will be more interested in what transpired in the first 45 minutes of the debate.

These are the people who like the "American Idol" and "Survivor" and "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" TV shows. They know nothing of the history of Iraq. They know nothing of what happens when wealth is transferred this rapidly from one nation to another.

So... we'll argue about lapel pins.

We will get exactly what we deserve.

Posted by: Castlereagh | April 21, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

should be "the one who thought"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 21, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Moveon.org's ad says "Enough is enough...The public needs the media to stop hurting the national dialogue in this important election year."


Funny, they didn't seem to think that the public "needed the media to stop hurting the national dialogue" when they got a sweetheart deal to run their full page "General Betray-Us" ad in the NYT.


The ultra left/progressive wing of the Dem party has taken over during this election cycle, and will stop at nothing including campaigning against Clinton and using threats and intimidation to advance the candidate who best serves their will, Barack Obama.

What has become apparent is that Obama expected to not have to answer any tough questions. It's ironic that he ends up being the one who though he would coast to the nomination, not her.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 21, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I was not advocating a gas tax hike, Metternich.

I am saying two things

One, we need to focus on the important issues (and there are some HUGE ones out there right now) and stop this infantile bickering

Two, the US invasion of a Middle East country sitting on the 2nd largest oil reserves has greatly destabilized the region. Oil was $25 a barrel before the invasion; what is it today?

Posted by: JohnLocker | April 21, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

JohnLocker is right.

We are witnessing a historic transfer of wealth. The long-term ramifications are huge.

Had we "paid ourselves" rather than paying the Saudis and Iranians, by slowly but steadily, increasing our own gas tax, we would have all those billions, rather than they.

But, now, they are getting the billions upon billions.

The questions are: what will Iran do with all this massive wealth? What will Saudi Arabia do (or continue to do)? What will happen to our Economy if this drain on it contiues?

Posted by: Metternich | April 21, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it is very important to parse each candidate's every statement. Maybe it is very important what each candidate wear's on his or her lapel. Maybe it very important to thoroughly examine every slip of the tongue by each candidate.

But let me ask you this...

Has anyone realized -- and American that is -- realized the ENORMOUS SHIFT of WEALTH that is taking place right now?

Do you realize just how fabulously wealthy Oil Producing nations are becoming?

IRAN is getting very rich. Please remember that rich has to proceed powerful. All that oil-wealth can, and will, sponsor terrorism. It can also build a formidable nuclear arsenal.

SAUDI ARABIA is already rich and getting insanely richer. You should already know that they ARE the Leading financier of terrorist activities. In other words, they are bankrolling the people that want to kill you and your children.

So, with oil at well over $100 a barrel, stop and realize how much more WEALTHY our ENEMIES are becoming BY US. Our money, US money, is flowing right to them. Think about it.

Now...

Is it very important to parse every single mis-statement a candidate may make?

Posted by: JohnLocker | April 21, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Since I can't cast a real vote tomorrow, this Obama supporter will vote for Team ABC in the debate. Gibson and Stephanopolous were weaker than Russert attacking Hillary in Cleveland, since Russert did stick to substance. But my man needs to figure out how to hold onto his "let's be reasonable" message while thrusting, parrying, and kitchen-sinking when necessary. I didn't pick him for the Hallmark card oratory. I picked him because he can beat McCain, and like it or not, Hillary's forcing him to figure out how. The Swift Boaters will talk about flag pins and Weathermen, not tax rates.

Posted by: Bored | April 21, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Swoosh - "It will be a cold day in hell before anyone asks McCain if he is "patriotic" or if he endorses the views of his minister of his neighbors."

Interestingly enough, they won't be asking McCain how it feels to be the first black candidate with a realistic chance of becoming president. That's because many questions are tailored to candidates based on the candidates background, history, recent events or just who they are. Because every candidate does not get the same questions does not mean that the questions asked (or not asked) are not fair. Or that someone is being treated unfairly. Obama got those questions because of the Wright controversy, his wife' statements and his continuously flubbed answers on his patriotism. That these questions are topical is only because of Obama's previous failings in answering them.

Posted by: Dave! | April 21, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

After some time thinking about it, I have concluded that ABC actually did an excellent job with the debate (in spite of themselves). What this debate did was force Obama to put up or shut up. His campaign has been built on the premise that he is a different kind of politician running a different kind of campaign. The problem is that there are very few people, either working on campaigns or other politicians, that believe Obama's new approach will work or even that he really does have a new approach (the "change" thing is just a campaign gimmick). Ultimately, the old and new were going to collide. The past several weeks we have witnessed the collision, culminating with the PA debate. The question I had is how much does Obama himself believe his own rhetoric? It seems to me that, when push came to shove, he resorted to a more traditional style (negative ads/blame the press/be partisan/etc). This is especially true of the people working for him and his supporters who have whined like heck and certainly have not lacked for partisanship. Based on his performance over the last several weeks, the word that comes to my mind when I now think of him is "fraud". When he should have been carrying the campaign to a higher level, he wound up rumbling in the mud with HRC. Those people that think that Obama will magically transform DC and bridge the political divide need to take off their rose colored glasses. There are still, for many, a lot of good reasons to vote for Obama. Getting rid of politics as usual is not one of them.

Posted by: Dave! | April 21, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

ABC News, as well as all other major media outlets (even the WaPo) are now completely, totally in the tank for the Republican party. Wholly-owned subsidiaries.

No surprise, then, that half the debate last week was devoted to right-wing talk radio "gotcha" questions.

It will be a cold day in hell before anyone asks McCain if he is "patriotic" or if he endorses the views of his minister of his neighbors.

Posted by: Swoosh | April 21, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

The response of Obama's supporters to the ABC debate in Philadelphia last Wednesday has been frightening.

This was the first debate in which their candidate was confronted with hard questions, the kind Clinton alone has faced in all of the previous debates.

In this instance, 14,000 Obamaphiles attacked ABC in response, and Obama personally used several inappropriate gestures in his public whining about having been put on the spot for once.

(Obama's hip-hop references should remind us of the powerful element of misogyny in this type of music.)

Hopefully the media won't be so intimidated by the hordes of angry Obamaphiles that it will revert to its previous kid glove treatment of Obama.

Posted by: sister | April 21, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

At the debate, Charlie was focused on capital gains taxes. Whatever. At least he knew what they are.

On Sunday, McCain thought capital gains taxes were paid on 401K plans. Clueless.

I can't wait to get this travesty over with.

Posted by: Tom J | April 21, 2008 3:05 AM | Report abuse

And, yet again today, the media treats Senator McCain with kid gloves. Amongst other missed opportunities this morning on This Week with George Stephanopolous -

- Why didn't George Stephanopolous question the hypocrisy of Senator McCain's assertions? Senator McCain contends he has acted appropriately in regards to John Hagee but continues to demand that Senator Obama has still not sufficiently addressed Rev. Wright and William Ayers?

- Why didn't Mr. Stephanopolous point out to Senator McCain that Senator Obama was NOT attacking Senator Coburn, but merely pointing out that it is absurd to hold candidates accountable for the positions and statements of people they know and work with?

- But, mostly - Why didn't Mr. Stephanopolous ask Senator McCain why he wasn't wearing a flag pin? From what we learned from last weeks ABC debate, isn't that truly the test of whether or not a candidate is patriotic?

Oh, that's right - ABC only thinks Senator Obama needs to pass a patriotism test.

Posted by: Walldog | April 20, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Obama wasn't 'ambushed', as one Kool Aid drinking Obamanista has whined, but was asked some pertinent questions for a change that revealed his lack of character that he couldn't answer. The Obamanistas apparantly only want softball questions asked to make him look good. When hardball questions get asked of Obama instead, they'll blame the messengers and not Obama's assocciation with a Louis Farrakhan desciple pastor Jerimiah Wright Jr.'s hatefull anti--America and anti--white sermons that Obama amened and hallelujad to just about every Sunday for 20 years.

Posted by: madhatter | April 20, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse

I would note the ability to withstand heat is also a sign of the devil. His accomodations in Hell are well known to be hot. Could a candidate be trying to recreate comforable hot conditions for herself, not acxtually be thinking of kitchens? Not that I am comparing Hillary...That would be negative politics.

Posted by: babar1 | April 20, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Miserable. Hoping for more policy. Anyone get the feeling the media will do anything to keep this fight going until the convention? It seems like they are desperate to make an issue out of every mistake or misstep. Of course, the campaign surrogates do all they can to fan the flames. It's getting tired. It all seems so high school. He said, she said.

Posted by: Cameron | April 20, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

NEO CONS!!! Let's talk about your war crimes against humanity. Let's talk about the Republican's disregard for the American people's desire to end the war that our family members are dying for and the American people are paying for. Let's talk about how the Republican's have broken laws and allowed your friends to break laws like: Libby Shooter. Let's talk about the fact that the Replications motivations are grounded in greed and power hunger. Let's talk about torture: did the Replications forget it is against the law or are you people above the law. Let's talk about voter fraud, election fraud, and voter machine fraud. The American people are on to the Republican's lies Carl Rove, George Bush, Dick Chaney, Condi Rice, Rumsfeld, etc. We consider all of you and all your pals slim-ball, lying, criminals. We are going to send all of you in jail. If we don't get you guys in this life time God will deal with all of you on Judgment Day. I would not trade places with any of you for all the money in the world. My soul is not for sale. You guys/ girls better enjoy your 30 pieces of silver while you have a chance.
Dems: Here is a plan of action. Why don't we start impeaching these criminals know? The Republican's will be too busy defending their lies and they want have time to interfere with our Democratic November 2008 White House Coronation. The American people are behind you. Timing is everything and the time to act is now.
Does everyone know the far-right is planning to steal the upcoming election just like they did in 2000, 2004, and 2006?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Fellow Democrats it is time we stand up against this tyranny. Our fellow Democrat (Senator Obama) got ambushed on prime time television. Where is the outrage from the Democratic leadership? I don't care which democratic candidate you are supporting. Your personal alliances are not relevant, a divided house cannot stand. This election is not just Senator Clinton's and Senator Obama's test, it is the Democratic Leadership's test. The American people and the World for that matter, needs to believe our party can stand up to these bullies and lay-down the law. I am tired of hearing about the Republican attack machine. Don't allow the Republican's to shape the thoughts and perceptions of the American people, we can't allow the American people to believe the Republican's are un-beatable. Perceptions are reality. This is why Senator McCain is winning independents' and Republicans' back into his fold. This trend must be stopped. This can be accomplished by the Democrats uniting and solving the Florida and Michigan delegation issues. If we can't conduct a primary election how will we convince the American people we can run the country? Now since Senator Clinton decided to give McCain talking points against Senator Obama which lends creditability to those attacks. Her creditability must be sacrificed she as to be totally discredited. I realize this could be a hard pill to swallow but our Democratic party comes first, just like she has put her political aspirations before our Democratic party, the deed must be returned forcefully and believably.
Now get your act together and push back. It is time to frame these criminals in the American people minds; they must be defined and classified in a negative light. The media also needs to be framed so people don't believe everything the reporters, pundits, and news commentators' say. Senator McCain must be pushed back to the right, he cannot be allowed to flip flop his policies to the middle. The ABC Debate is a perfect example of why we need to take control now.

Posted by: jeff-missouri | April 20, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

My problem is with the questions of the first 50 minutes. Even though they have been rehashed ad infinitum over the last few weeks, I respect that a lot of people may not have heard any of these discussions, BUT. I feel George and Charlie should have sprinkled the "gotcha" questions throughout the 120 minutes instead of trying to ratchet up the ratings in the first 50 minutes with tabloid-ology.

What about questions on the Economy? How about the rising food prices? The Iraq war?
Pakistan? Afghanistan? Gas prices? The housing crisis? Health care? Issues that are far more important to the average voter , and were saved for the end, so that time actually ran out before most of them were even addressed. How does this help the voter??

BTW, I think ABC deserves ALL the criticism it's received, and I gladly donated to Sen Obama after receiving the "Gotcha" email. I've also canceled my DirecTV ABC channel, which I had to pay an extra $1.50 a month to receive. I can live without it and will probably donate that $18 I'll save to Sen Obama's campaign too!

Posted by: NoBillary1 | April 20, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

There is something cult-like and frankly kind of scary with the Obamamania seen in the press and with his followers. The outrage over the debate is unbelievable when you take an objective look across all the debates and see that this was the first time Obama had to deal with tough questions and the first time he was NOT treated with special attention. His indignant attitude towards his treatment makes me know he won't be able to handle the major swiftboating coming his way.

It is unfortunate that the media has controlled this primary season so much and not done their jobs properly. They have no integrity when they show such obvious bias towards Obama.

Posted by: ragindemo | April 20, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Some of it may be Obama-spin, but the debate was, in total, a bad joke. They continued beating dead horses (Wright, Snipers), resurrected the ghost of McCarthy (guilt by association), and brought up what is perhaps the most asinine subject of the entire electoral cycle ($#%#^@#$! lapel pins!)

Posted by: epthorn | April 20, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

O, scrivner. I'm so glad you bothered to repost your blather to correct a freudian slip. You didn't think you wasted enough space the 1st time?

Posted by: PJinChi | April 20, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Quoting George from the debate:
"Let's take a minute and talk about gas prices."

A MINUTE George!?!?
You and Charles thought your obligation to inform the American public was best served by 52 minutes on flag pins, etc., leaving little time for issues impacting most every single American?

I'm embarrassed for both of you.
But then again, maybe I shouldn't be.
Perhaps you no longer HAVE any journalistic integrity.

Posted by: Aynsley | April 20, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

the 'debate' proves that all US media are now arms of the republican/military/contractor propaganda machine.

The New York Times leads with a 7,500-word exposé of the Pentagon "message machine," a concerted effort by the Department of Defense to spread the Bush administration's Iraq talking points by briefing supposedly independent retired commanders for network and cable television appearances.

The NYT successfully sued the Department of Defense to gain access to thousands of e-mails and internal documents relating to its posse of military T.V. commentators. The 8,000 pages of information "reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated." These "military experts" often communicated with the Pentagon to receive the latest agenda before going on camera, and some used the inside information to assist private companies in obtaining military contracts. More unfortunately, "members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access."

Posted by: it's all a joke on you | April 20, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Only an inference drawn from her behavior, but Hillary seemingly has thrown in the towel on '08 and moved on to strategizing about '12, with some crucial interim steps underway.

In August Obama would finally be nominated, but approach the general election as damaged goods following her relentless negativism, aka her scorched earth tactic (the dog-in-the-manger stance).

President McCain would not endure beyond a single term. The way would be clear for her.

If only she could wash out that damned spot.

Posted by: FirstMouse | April 20, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

The question for ABC is not whether it is biased (it was just asking the questions everyone has been writing about lately).

The question is... is this anyway to elect a President? Does it really matter if Obama's pastor "loves America as much" as he does? What does that even mean?

I would hope a serious network would ask serious questions, and that the challenge for the journalists would be to ask them in such a persistent way that they could get past the scripted answers.

For me, ABC failed on every level.

Posted by: Boutan | April 20, 2008 6:16 AM | Report abuse

*This is a perfect illustration of how the influence of the special interests is shaping our national discussion, Chris, distracting us away from questioning just how BIG their role actually is.

* A L L of the important questions - from universal health care coverage to the rising price of food and oil to the declining job market - pivot around the growing inequity between the power of the special interests vs. the power of the common citizen as regards our elected officials.

*You, yourself, once asked about the power of endorsements, Chris. ABC just validated my response to your question (i.e., that you left out the endorsements of the media in your list of varying types). The power of the fourth estate (and the very few who own and seem to control you) to manipulate the perception of the masses - distracting them from the truly CRUCIAL issues with exactly the kind of "bread and circuses" that last Wednesday presented us is not just ENORMOUS, it is destroying our democracy.

*EVEN given their own premises for the selection of their questions - given the recently revealed information about the staggering level of financial ties between a foreign government and one of the Democratic candidates - had either Gibson or Stephanopolous asked ONE QUESTION about the part that special interest money plays in our national campaigns (and hence their extraordinary access to the seats of US power), I would have, however reluctantly, been willing to go along with their stated defense (but they did not).

*The really PERTINENT questions in this election, Chris, could have ALSO been sensational IF the moderators' purpose was actually as they have stated.

But clearly, it was NOT.

Posted by: Carmen Cameron | April 20, 2008 5:55 AM | Report abuse

the proof in abc's pudding will be sunday--if george asks mccain about the keating five, the lobbyists on the bus, why the maverick doesn't wear a flag pin, whether he supports anti-catholic rev. hagee, whether he knows the difference between sunnis and shia, about the "bomb, bomb, bomb iran" song, about the leisurely stroll in the bagdad market, about cindy's taxes, about his divorce, about his alleged affairs, etc., then we'll know it's just abc's view of how to question candidates instead of a blatant attempt to set up a republican.

Posted by: kstack | April 20, 2008 5:44 AM | Report abuse

I highly recommend Walldog's post, a few screens above.

He puts the focus right where it belongs: on the corporate media -- for its partisanship, slanted reporting, undue influence and irresponsible framing of the issues in the narrowest and most salacious possible terms.

Bravo, Walldog.

Posted by: rippermccord | April 20, 2008 4:24 AM | Report abuse

A crappa-palooza debate. Apologies to the villagers who love dirt, but most Americans still love meat and potatoes. ABC left us hungry.

Posted by: Common Sense | April 20, 2008 4:07 AM | Report abuse

Chris,

There you go again. Shame on you for holding up the likes of Politico.com as exemplars of trusted journalism, when in fact, the site is blatantly conservative, with nary a positive story about Democrats to be found, only hit pieces.

Of course the Disney/ABC duhbate was Mickey Mouse. Far worse than any Hillary Clinton or Tina Fey had any reason to complain about.

The questions asked of Hillary Clinton in previous debates were neither trivial (i.e., they didn't require her to defend her lapel accoutrements or judge the degree of her pastor's patriotism) nor were there any 45-minute, extended sessions in which questions were aimed almost exclusively at her, especially none limited to questioning her patriotism, character, old baggage and gaffes.

If anyone disagrees, please tell me in which debate a moderator peppered Hillary for 45 minutes with questions about Whitewater, Vince Foster, Norman Hsu, Travelgate, the Lewinsky affair, her husband's disbarment or her reputation as pathologically ambitious, dishonest and mean.

Even forgetting her checkered past, did either moderator in Thursday night's debate have the wits to follow up on her admission that she repeatedly told a story she "knew" not to be true? Did either ask if, in fact, she had lied about taking sniper fire, lied about Northern Ireland and lied about her role in other foreign policy events just to prop up her national security credentials? No.

I guess that would have been a "gotcha" question,, too. But it was the only "gaffe" she had to answer for, and it happened in just the past two weeks. Contrast that with the grilling Obama took about the kind of Internet slime pedaled by some here, and it's clear that ABC News was looking for a headline with which to trumpet its own credentials Friday morning.

Stephanopoulos and Gibson need a lesson in civility. A couple of their early questions might have been more or less fair, but not the ones about flag pins or Rev. Wright again, not the Dream Ticket -- again. And why hasn't the Washington Post reported the Reuter's story about ABC News tracking down the "woman on the street" for her question about the flag pin? Her previously reported disdain for Obama must have been irresistible to the "fair and balanced" ABC team, who treated her as a bystander troubled by rumors instead of a Hillary fan bent on spreading the rumors.

This was hack journalism, smears draped in the mantle of Constitutional snippets, flashy graphics and the pugilistic title of "Obama vs Clinton: One on One," and, moderated, of course, by two VERY DISTINGUISHED NEWS PROFESSIONALS asking VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS that DEMAND ANSWERS!

Excuse me while I toss my cookies once again at the sad state of journalism and its adoption of political innuendo as a solid substitute for reporting on the vital interests of the democracy...

Posted by: rippermccord | April 20, 2008 4:05 AM | Report abuse

The line was crossed when:

1. Carville's "War Room" buddy George decided to ask the question that Sean Hannity "told" him to ask. Literally.

2. When ABC News went to all the trouble to find the one idiotic woman mentioned in a New York Times article who said she couldn't vote for Obama because he didn't wear a flag lapel pin. They found her, and then filmed her asking Obama this stupid question.

Neither George nor Charlie could find the balls to mention that since McCain doesn't generally wear a flag lapel pin, who is this poor woman to vote for come November? And why should any person not named Bush or Cheney or Billary give a sh*t?

Since Hillary wants to imprison someone who burns the flag, does she also want to jail anyone not wearing the designated pin?

3. Charlie is so alone in his anchor-world balloon where million dollar salaries are the norm and not the exception, he felt the most important topic of the night was related to capital gains taxes.

After all, it's what he and the Astors talk about at the country club every weekend. And so Charlie bared his obsession for all to see. Scary.

As Jon Stewart might say, what's left for The Daily Show when ABC takes over their act?

Posted by: filmex | April 20, 2008 3:50 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem -- normal citizens have to depend on the press to ask the questions we'll never get a chance to direct to a candidate. And believe me, if not for the "bargain" that the journalist represents the millions of regular folk at home, no candidate would waste the time and effort to go through one of these debates. So the rage you're hearing from the blogosphere is of the "Network" kind: it's our way in the 21st century of slamming open the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You're not getting this cushy access to the candidates for your health, but as MY REPRESENTATIVE. In case you forgot, that's the reason it's called the Fourth Estate (the first 3 -- the branches of Government). So when MY REPRESENTATIVE trivializes and wastes my opportunity for information, is clearly biased or just full of hot air I'm gonna react. So, yes, I thought that the ABC moderators were ill-informed, condescending (Charlie, er Charrrrrles, Gibson needs to lose those 1/2 glasses he perches on his nose to sneer down from), trivial and biased. Or, simply, shoddy and despicable.

Posted by: omyobama | April 20, 2008 3:43 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem -- normal citizens have to depend on the press to ask the questions we'll never get a chance to direct to a candidate. And believe me, if not for the "bargain" that the journalist represents the millions of regular folk at home, no candidate would waste the time and effort to go through one of these debates. So the rage you're hearing from the blogosphere is of the "Network" kind: it's our way in the 21st century of slamming open the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You're not getting this cushy access to the candidates for your health, but as MY REPRESENTATIVE. In case you forgot, that's the reason it's called the Fourth Estate (the first 3 -- the branches of Government). So when MY REPRESENTATIVE trivializes and wastes my opportunity for information, is clearly biased or just full of hot air I'm gonna react. So, yes, I thought that the ABC moderators were ill-informed, condescending (Charlie, er Charrrrrles, Gibson needs to lose those 1/2 glasses he perches on his nose to sneer down from), trivial and biased. Or, simply, shoddy and despicable.

Posted by: omyobama | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem -- normal citizens have to depend on the press to ask the questions we'll never get a chance to direct to a candidate. And believe me, if not for the "bargain" that the journalist represents the millions of regular folk at home, no candidate would waste the time and effort to go through one of these debates. So the rage you're hearing from the blogosphere is of the "Network" kind: it's our way in the 21st century of slamming open the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You're not getting this cushy access to the candidates for your health, but as MY REPRESENTATIVE. In case you forgot, that's the reason it's called the Fourth Estate (the first 3 -- the branches of Government). So when MY REPRESENTATIVE trivializes and wastes my opportunity for information, is clearly biased or just full of hot air I'm gonna react. So, yes, I thought that the ABC moderators were ill-informed, condescending (Charlie, er Charrrrrles, Gibson needs to lose those 1/2 glasses he perches on his nose to sneer down from), trivial and biased. Or, simply, shoddy and despicable.

Posted by: omyobama | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

The questions asked of Hillary Clinton in previous debates were neither trivial (i.e., they didn't require her to defend her lapel accoutrements or judge the degree of her pastor's patriotism) nor were there any 45-minute extended sessions in which questions were aimed almost exclusively at her. Especially none limited to questions of patriotism, character, old baggage and gaffes.

If anyone disagrees, please tell me in which debate a moderator peppered Hillary for 45 minutes with questions about Whitewater, Vince Foster, Norman Hsu, Travelgate, the despicable sleaze of the Lewinsky affair, her husband's disbarment or her reputation as a behind-the-scenes ball buster.

For that matter, did either moderator in the recent ABC debate have the wits to follow up on her admission to telling a story she "knew" not to be true? Did either ask if she, in fact, lied about taking sniper fire, lied about Northern Ireland and lied about her role in other foreign policy situations just to prop up her national security credentials?

I guess that would have been a "gotcha" question,, too. But it was the only "gaffe" she had to answer for, and it happened in just the past two weeks. Contrast that with the grilling Obama took about the kind of Internet tripe pedalled by some here, and it's clear that ABC News was looking for a headline to trumpet its own credentials with Friday morning.

Stephanopoulos and Gibson need a lesson in civility. A couple of the early questions might have been more or less fair, but not flag pins, not Wright again, not the Dream Ticket again, not Wright's patriotism and by extension, Obama's.

This was hack journalism, crap draped in the mantle of Constitutional snippets, flashy graphics, a pugilistic title of "Obama vs Clinton: One on One" and, of course, two VERY DISTINGUISHED PUNDITS ASKING VERY EARNEST QUESTIONS THAT DEMAND ANSWERS!

Excuse me while I toss my cookies once again...

Posted by: rippermccord | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem -- normal citizens have to depend on the press to ask the questions we'll never get a chance to direct to a candidate. And believe me, if not for the "bargain" that the journalist represents the millions of regular folk at home, no candidate would waste the time and effort to go through one of these debates. So the rage you're hearing from the blogosphere is of the "Network" kind: it's our way in the 21st century of slamming open the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You're not getting this cushy access to the candidates for your health, but as MY REPRESENTATIVE. In case you forgot, that's the reason it's called the Fourth Estate (the first 3 -- the branches of Government). So when MY REPRESENTATIVE trivializes and wastes my opportunity for information, is clearly biased or just full of hot air I'm gonna react. So, yes, I thought that the ABC moderators were ill-informed, condescending (Charlie, er Charrrrrles, Gibson needs to lose those 1/2 glasses he perches on his nose to sneer down from), trivial and biased. Or, simply, shoddy and despicable.

Posted by: omyobama | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

ABC moderators George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson asked Barack Obama questions that were pertinent and needed to be asked of a candidate for President of the USA. While the Obama cult members are whining about supposedly trivial questions, these questions exposed Obama's character and also as an empty suit who simply tells people what they want to hear at a given moment. It embarrased Obama because he couldn't answer them, and that's why the Obamanistas are upset. They want nothing but softball questions asked of their candidate but anything goes with Hillary and McCain.

Posted by: mh | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem -- normal citizens have to depend on the press to ask the questions we'll never get a chance to direct to a candidate. And believe me, if not for the "bargain" that the journalist represents the millions of regular folk at home, no candidate would waste the time and effort to go through one of these debates. So the rage you're hearing from the blogosphere is of the "Network" kind: it's our way in the 21st century of slamming open the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You're not getting this cushy access to the candidates for your health, but as MY REPRESENTATIVE. In case you forgot, that's the reason it's called the Fourth Estate (the first 3 -- the branches of Government). So when MY REPRESENTATIVE trivializes and wastes my opportunity for information, is clearly biased or just full of hot air I'm gonna react. So, yes, I thought that the ABC moderators were ill-informed, condescending (Charlie, er Charrrrrles, Gibson needs to lose those 1/2 glasses he perches on his nose to sneer down from), trivial and biased. Or, simply, shoddy and despicable.

Posted by: omyobama | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

ABC moderators George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson asked Barack Obama questions that were pertinent and needed to be asked of a candidate for President of the USA. While the Obama cult members are whining about supposedly trivial questions, these questions exposed Obama's character and also as an empty suit who simply tells people what they want to hear at a given moment. It embarrased Obama because he couldn't answer them, and that's why the Obamanistas are upset. They want nothing but softball questions asked of their candidate but anything goes with Hillary and McCain.

Posted by: mh | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem -- normal citizens have to depend on the press to ask the questions we'll never get a chance to direct to a candidate. And believe me, if not for the "bargain" that the journalist represents the millions of regular folk at home, no candidate would waste the time and effort to go through one of these debates. So the rage you're hearing from the blogosphere is of the "Network" kind: it's our way in the 21st century of slamming open the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You're not getting this cushy access to the candidates for your health, but as MY REPRESENTATIVE. In case you forgot, that's the reason it's called the Fourth Estate (the first 3 -- the branches of Government). So when MY REPRESENTATIVE trivializes and wastes my opportunity for information, is clearly biased or just full of hot air I'm gonna react. So, yes, I thought that the ABC moderators were ill-informed, condescending (Charlie, er Charrrrrles, Gibson needs to lose those 1/2 glasses he perches on his nose to sneer down from), trivial and biased. Or, simply, shoddy and despicable.

Posted by: omyobama | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem -- normal citizens have to depend on the press to ask the questions we'll never get a chance to direct to a candidate. And believe me, if not for the "bargain" that the journalist represents the millions of regular folk at home, no candidate would waste the time and effort to go through one of these debates. So the rage you're hearing from the blogosphere is of the "Network" kind: it's our way in the 21st century of slamming open the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." You're not getting this cushy access to the candidates for your health, but as MY REPRESENTATIVE. In case you forgot, that's the reason it's called the Fourth Estate (the first 3 -- the branches of Government). So when MY REPRESENTATIVE trivializes and wastes my opportunity for information, is clearly biased or just full of hot air I'm gonna react. So, yes, I thought that the ABC moderators were ill-informed, condescending (Charlie, er Charrrrrles, Gibson needs to lose those 1/2 glasses he perches on his nose to sneer down from), trivial and biased. Or, simply, shoddy and despicable.

Posted by: omyobama | April 20, 2008 3:42 AM | Report abuse

I just think that the debate was symptomatic of the disconnect between Washington and the media, and real life everyday Americans. I am fortunate enough to have a good secure job that pays well and provides healthcare, but even amongst my friends and family, there is a real sense of desperation. Most of my family is in Texas and middle class, yet really struggling. My parents are about to retire,and yet the idea of that is daunting. One of my brothers is an Iraq veteran who was stop-lossed and extended, finally out, only to be fighting the VA over the health problems he's facing (yep, he's one of the 300k vets who's MRI showed traumatic brain injury, among other problems). None of us are on the extreme end of poverty or wealth, though many of us have experience the low end at some point. Just ordinary people living their lives. But that has become more and more of a struggle. And when we see the media focusing on things like flag pens and mangled remarks, it's exasperating. We don't care! Give us a little more credit--we're smarter than you think. No, really, we are. I, along with my brother, are supporting Obama. Most of the rest of my family are evangelical christian conservatives voting for McCain. But there was a universal disgust with the debate the other night that we all shared. Politics finally brought us together on something.

Posted by: CJ | April 20, 2008 1:57 AM | Report abuse

For this weekend's Wag the Blog, we want to hear from Fixistas on this debate over the debate. Did the ABC moderators cross the line with its questions of Obama? Or was it no different than earlier debates accept that it was Obama -- not Clinton -- in the crosshairs?

All of the debates used various tabloid type questions against each of the candidates. But what ABC did in the last debate was to use so many of these kind of questions that they get the dubious honor of holding the record of taking up almost the entire first hour of a two hour debate with meaningless personality based questions.

And contrary to what Cilliza, VandeHei, Harris, Brooks and other second rate journalists, who write about trivial sideissues would have you believe, the majority of the flak that ABC took had nothing to do with either Obama or Clinton. The vast majority of the criticism was directed at ABC for the inane sideshow they created with their shoddy questions.

Judging by the question posed by Cilliza in this column, he is obviously not interested in hearing about the real reason for the complaints he's only interested in pitting the Obama camp against the Clinton camp. Because when the media can divide the Democrats it enables them to continue to write their personality based stories about both candidates instead of writing about real issues.

All of these faux journalists should be held with the deepest possible contempt for trying to use their readers to provide cover for their lousy political coverage. Most of us are not fooled by these stunts.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2008 1:14 AM | Report abuse

What if it's appopriate to "vet" a candidate, but a debate is not the appropriate venue for such "vetting"? Clearly, the questions themselves worked to cast all the doubt and inflict all the damage the moderators could hope to inflict on Obama so close to the PA primaries; his responses were largely irrelevant to that process. The number of questions posed to Obama, and the level of detail the moderators pursued in those "questions," were grossly disproportionate in relation to those posed to Clinton. Those who have since remarked that the questions were perfetly "fair" must be those who have a reason to enjoy watching Obama being skewered from three sides, while Obama remained gentlemanly enough to chose not to strike back at Clinton, esp. over the Bosnia lie. A debate is a forum for discussion and argument over substantive issues, not smears. All those who voiced their revulsion at the spectacle had every right to do so. I have never been aware of any "media bias" against Hillary, even when she claimed it was so and the media was so quick to agree with her. Nor was she ever uniquely put on the spot in any debate by questions that were not about policy or position, as a review of past debates will show. This was a collusive low-moment, which has woken the general public up to demand that the dirty dealings of the "press as political operatives" cease, and that they take back their rightful roles as impartial, objective, non-partisan reporters of the facts.

Posted by: Nicky Hartzell | April 20, 2008 1:11 AM | Report abuse

I don't think any honest person who read the thousands of complaints on the ABC web site (about 20,000 now, running about 8-1 against the network) could claim they were either orchestrated, or all from Obama supporters. (Or from "leftists," as one blog on Time.Com claimed -- unless you think all Democrats are leftists.) Stephanopoulos and Gibson demeaned the Democratic party and essentially did the Republicans' work for them in advance. This was a Democratic primary debate, and should have focused on issues that MATTER to Democrats. For more on this, check today's editorial in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Posted by: ally | April 20, 2008 1:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if the last debate was different from other Clinton-Obama debates. But if the questioning in the first 45 minutes was the same in other debates except that it was directed more at Clinton, then they constituted an equal abdication of journalistic responsibility as the last debate. Just because the press asks both candidates uninformative and unhelpful questions doesn't make it right in either case.

We're electing someone to do a job, not to make a fashion statement with lapel pins. Any questions that are not job-related is a waste of precious opportunities to find out what the candidates think on matters of substance. Maybe if the press reminded people that we're voting for a president and not a dinner buddy or a personal therapist, we'd have better politics in this country.

Posted by: dsimon | April 20, 2008 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Our country has gone horribly off track during the Bush Administration. President Bush's approval ratings remain mired below 30%. And the approval ratings for Congress are even lower than that of President Bush.

So, when Senator Obama says the American people are fed up with Washington, this is not a catchy slogan. It is a reality.

The American people are fed up with the divisiveness and nastiness between the Republicans and Democrats. While blame can be assigned to both parties, I believe that President Bush and the formerly Republican controlled Congress bear the largest burden. Though both the 2000 and 2004 elections clearly demonstrated that our country is basically split 50/50 between the two parties, the Republicans chose to rule as if they had a huge majority. After the 2004 election, President Bush crowed, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it." And he has spent it, and it has cost him. And it has cost our country. As a result of President Bush's decisions, we have blown through our surplus and our country is now deeply in debt. We have lost thousands of troops, we have lost our good reputation around the world, we have lost our way. Our country is depressed, both financially and emotionally.

So when Senator Obama says the American people are fed up and need a change, this is not a catchy slogan. It is a reality.

The American people want to assess which candidate can best change the way business is done in Washington, so that our collective lives can change for the better. We want to hear their proposed solutions so we can contrast the differences between their policies. And the filter through which we can receive that information is either through the mainstream media or the internet.

But when corporations control so many disparate streams of information, the American people become wary of the intentions of the media. Rupert Murdoch, for example, controls Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, MySpace (amongst others) and many of their commentators/personalities have soapboxes on both cable news and talk radio. As such, Rupert Murdoch is a major gatekeeper of information, with the power to shape and influence the news we receive. But Mr. Murdoch is not the only such gatekeeper. TimeWarner controls CNN and Time Magazine and many other streams of information. As does Disney, as does Viacom, as does NBC/Universal.

And when informed viewers regularly watch these corporate news shows, we are able to detect certain patterns. Fox News is the most transparent in their bias. Run by former Republican operative Roger Ailes, Fox News is inarguably biased in favor of the Republican Party. Their hosts, guests, stories and verbiage all serve to illuminate the bias they clearly have of Republicans over Democrats. To argue otherwise is ridiculous.

CNN is slightly subtler, but regular viewing of their programming reflects a detectable preference of Senator Clinton over Senator Obama. Some MSNBC hosts have clearly formed a distinct preference of Senator Obama over Senator Clinton, while it is clear that others prefer Senator Clinton to Senator Obama and Republicans over Democrats.

And because viewers can detect such bias in the reporting, we have lost faith in the independent journalistic integrity of the hosts and pundits who regularly appear on these shows. By regularly tuning in, we can all divine where these "journalists" stand on the issues, candidates and politics.

The media is under fire, and the dissatisfaction directed towards the media is well deserved.

Take the "Reverend Wright Controversy" for example. The media has shown the same footage of Reverend Wright incessantly for weeks. And the public has been saturated with the footage and demands for Senator Obama to explain and apologize for the sermons. Fair enough but, beyond that initial wave of coverage, where has any hint of journalism been on display?

A simple Google search reveals that the heavily edited sermons blanketing the airwaves were assembled by Lee Habeeb, a former producer of the Laura Ingraham Show. Ms. Ingraham is a well-known conservative pundit. It is plain to see that the creation and distribution of this selection of Reverend Wright's sermons was politically motivated.

Why has that not been investigated, where is the reporting of that aspect of the story?

Why hasn't the media shown viewers what Reverend Wright said before and after the heavily edited selections of his sermons? Why has there been no examination of the context of the sermons, why has there been no debate regarding whether or not any of the sermons may have been valid? Why has there been no reporting about more positive aspects of this church? Why have there been no comparisons to other churches and other fiery speeches? Why has there been no deeper examination and incessant airing of other "controversial" sermons by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Bob Jones, John Hagee, or Ron Parsley? Where is the journalism?

Take the "flag pin controversy", for example. Where is the journalism in this "issue"? I do not recall seeing Senator Clinton regularly wearing a flag pin, I do not recall seeing Senator McCain regularly wearing a flag pin, I do not recall seeing Charlie Gibson or George Stephanopolous wearing a flag pin at last week's ABC debate. Why is this only an issue for Senator Obama? Why wasn't Senator Clinton asked the same question - Was this a debate or an interrogation? Why is this even an issue at all? Is there suddenly a "patriotism" test in this country? Does the simple act of wearing a pin determine whether or not somebody is patriotic? Why not explore these angles to this "controversy"?

Where is the journalism?

Fox and CNN spent the entire last weekend barraging Senator Obama about so-called "elitist" comments he made to "San Francisco liberals". All weekend long, CNN parroted the e-mails they received from the campaigns of Senators Clinton and McCain. Echoing the word "elitist", over and over again.

Where was the examination of whether there was validity in Senator Obama's comments? Throughout this campaign, the media has relentlessly focused on the core constituencies of Senator Clinton's and Senator Obama's supporters. Exhaustively, we've been told that Senator Clinton has consistently appealed to Women, Latinos, Those Who Make Less Than $50,000 and Older Voters; and that Senator Obama has the support of African-Americans, Young Voters, Those Who Make More than $50,000 and Higher Educated Voters. We've been told the two campaigns are battling for the votes of White Men and Working Class Voters, and that these voters could determine who wins or loses in Pennsylvania.

So is it really surprising that a group of supporters would ask Senator Obama how he is doing with this constituency? Is it really controversial that Senator Obama would recognize the challenge of reaching this constituency that has recently supported Republicans? Is it really worthy of around-the-clock coverage that Senator Obama clumsily made the same argument made in Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Rather than propagating the political tactics of his rivals, why don't reporters explore these aspects to this "story"?

Where is the journalism?

Sean Hannity has been screaming about the "William Ayers controversy" for weeks. In the days before the ABC debate, Mr. Hannity asked George Stephanopolous to question Senator Obama about Mr. Ayers in the ABC debate. Sure enough, Mr. Stephanopolous broached this Right Wing talking point in a debate viewed by 10 million viewers.

Isn't it fair to question why Mr. Stephanopolous allowed himself to become a tool for Fox News? Isn't it fair to question why "guilt by association" is given as much or more weight as positions on policies that are so crucial to America? And wouldn't it have been fair to at least inform the viewers that Mr. Stephanopolous owes his entire career to his position in President Clinton's administration, if not recuse him from participating as a moderator?
Isn't it fair to at least question whether there was a conflict of interest to have Mr. Stephanopolous be a moderator of this debate?

These are but a few of the problems that Americans have with the media. Many pundits have defended ABC and taken the position that viewers care about these sensational "character" questions, arguing that viewers would not tune in if the debate were only about policy matters. What a depressingly cynical and condescending opinion the media seems to have for their viewers. But more importantly, this viewpoint reflects and defines exactly why journalism is under fire.

The media is no longer concerned with journalism. Today, it is all about entertainment.

As Paddy Chayefsky foretold in "Network", as James L. Brooks foretold in "Broadcast News" - In satisfying the need to procure high ratings, news departments have become more concerned with entertaining viewers than informing them. Rather than covering complicated and nuanced issues, news shows choose to focus on the salacious and the sensational. Rather than appealing to the highest common denominator, news shows opt to focus on the lowest. And when news writers put subjective verbiage in the mouths of news reporters, it becomes impossible to tell the difference between objective reporting and subjective punditry.

Americans find it insulting when members of the media dismiss our passion, our commitment, our values, our patriotism. While Senator Obama, on this one occasion, used inartful language to dissect the intent of voters, the media makes a living doing the same thing day after day.

Rather than focus on the qualities possessed and positions articulated by these candidates, the media focuses on the gaffes the candidates makes and the tactics their competitors employ. Sizzle over steak, flash over substance, salaciousness over seriousness, sensationalism over nuance.

Americans are sick and tired of this laziness and manipulation from the media.

That is why journalism is under fire.

Posted by: Walldog | April 20, 2008 12:54 AM | Report abuse

Believe the experts at your own peril.Malthusian economics awaits us.You could always try Marx and Engels.

Posted by: Jota Jota Tomas | April 20, 2008 12:53 AM | Report abuse

I read twenty-six pages of a the entire debate's transcript, and I was beginning to wonder WHEN I would get to The Questions of substance. We're talking about a debate before PA's voting process, crucial. The debate arrives, and half of it was wasted on stupid questions. Among them, was question of the flag pin? Of ALL important questions that could have been asked, and some MAJOR topic(s) weren't even touched on mind you people, they chose stupid questions.

My opinion, that debate was a waste of time and not very substantial. I wouldn't even call that a debate.

George and Charlie, have you any darn idea what Obama could have been doing with that precious time??? How unprofessional. Why didn't you just set up individual INTERVIEWS with each candidate separately??? You may as well have done that. That was NOT a debate. Many of us are disappointed, hands down. End of discussion.

Obama: Keep moving forward. Many of us are expecting you in 2008. There's much work to do and people to help bring home.

Posted by: Obama2008 | April 20, 2008 12:11 AM | Report abuse

debate was completely fair and completely due in terms of someone in the media trying to get some straight answers from obama on matters that are absolutely troubling and absolutely will have impact on his electability in the general if nominated.

some of the questions from the wednesday debate that he still failed to answer:

1. what specifically had he heard in previous rev. wright sermons that moved him to exclude him from participation in his campaign kick-off? and since he apparently felt those comments controversial enough to distance himself then, how different were those comments from the ones posted on the web a few months ago?

mr. obama keeps asserting that the 2 episodes of rev. wright commentary were substantially different in tone and tenor. ok, how about you let the public be the judge of that by telling us what his original comments were. heck, we'll even let you paraphrase, mr. obama. just give us some actual data so that we the public can actually draw our own conclusions.

2. why have we not heard anyone in the media (besides george stephanopolus during the debate itself) challenge and document that obama flat out lied in response to whether or not he and his campaign had been ACTIVELY pushing the "bosnia-gate" story and ACTIVELY pushing stories that hillary clinton is "untrustworthy"..."willing to say or do anything"...and today, "lacking in moral authority to lay the wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier?"

the press attends DAILY press calls with each campaign, obama's included. the press receives press memos DAILY from each campaign, including obama's. the press gets non-stop text messages and e-mails from each campaign, including obama's.

there is no media member who is covering this race who could take a lie detector test and answer anything but "yes" to the question of "is the obama campaign actively pushing "bosnia-gate" and storylines that hillary clinton is "dishonest."

but do we hear or read any sharp critical analysis from the media calling obama and his campaign out on this fact? no, we do not.

so the politico.com guys, harris and vandehei, got is spot on: one need look no further than the media negativity toward gibson and stephanopolus to have all the evidence they need of the obama-bias in the media.

of course, the doubley troubling thing about the obama media bias is that it cannot be resolved by merely highlighting the problem in hopes of shaming the media personalities and their employers into correcting the imbalance because the media itself is the sweet spot of the obama demographic, namely (1) college-educated voters, (2) earning $100K+ in annual salary.

the media isn't merely getting sloppy and lazy in pursuing its task of balance. the media in large sees obama as "their personal candidate" and are thus incapable of separating their journalistic duties from their personal attractions, and thus you have the "obama-media-phenomenon" in a nutshell.

Posted by: bdiddy | April 20, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I can't get terribly excited about the ABC debate. The moderators are, after all, businessmen. Their job is to attract and keep as many eyeballs on their program, and it sponsers,as they can. Its their job to generate ratings and money for the conglomerate that owns them. There's nothing wrong with that, EXCEPT they claim to be JOURNALISTS. Thats a lie, and a fraud on the public. They are NOT JOURNALISTS, or PROFESSIONALS. They are entertainers. There is a difference. Journalists have a code of ethics and a primary responsiblity to the people that rely upon them for information rather than to their owners/bosses. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost upon 90% of the public. Candidates who are truly concerned about getting an accurate message out about themselves would INSIST that debate be conducted by professionals above reproach. There must be a couple of REAL journalists around someplace who could take up that job for the good of the nation.

Posted by: Susan E. | April 20, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I can't get terribly excited about the ABC debate. The moderators are, after all, businessmen. Their job is to attract and keep as many eyeballs on their program, and it sponsers,as they can. Its their job to generate ratings and money for the conglomerate that owns them. There's nothing wrong with that, EXCEPT they claim to be JOURNALISTS. Thats a lie, and a fraud on the public. They are NOT JOURNALISTS, or PROFESSIONALS. They are entertainers. There is a difference. Journalists have a code of ethics and a primary responsiblity to the people that rely upon them for information rather than to their owners/bosses. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost upon 90% of the public. Candidates who are truly concerned about getting an accurate message out about themselves would INSIST that debate be conducted by professionals above reproach. There must be a couple of REAL journalists around someplace who could take up that job for the good of the nation.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I can't get terribly excited about the ABC debate. The moderators are, after all, businessmen. Their job is to attract and keep as many eyeballs on their program, and it sponsers,as they can. Its their job to generate ratings and money for the conglomerate that owns them. There's nothing wrong with that, EXCEPT they claim to be JOURNALISTS. Thats a lie, and a fraud on the public. They are NOT JOURNALISTS, or PROFESSIONALS. They are entertainers. There is a difference. Journalists have a code of ethics and a primary responsiblity to the people that rely upon them for information rather than to their owners/bosses. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost upon 90% of the public. Candidates who are truly concerned about getting an accurate message out about themselves would INSIST that debate be conducted by professionals above reproach. There must be a couple of REAL journalists around someplace who could take up that job for the good of the nation.

Posted by: Susan E. | April 20, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Obama was being misleading when he denied that his handwriting had been on a document endorsing a state ban on the sale and possession of handguns in Illinois.

Gibson: And in 1996, your campaign issued a questionnaire, and your writing was on the questionnaire that said you favored a ban on handguns.

Obama: No, my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire, Charlie. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.

Actually, Obama's writing was on the 1996 document, which was filed when Obama was running for the Illinois state Senate. This is a story that has been evolving since last December, when Politico.com obtained a copy of the questionnaire the Obama campaign had completed for a Chicago nonprofit, Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. One of the questions dealt with a ban on handguns and assault weapons, and Obama took a hard line:

35. Do you support state legislation to:

a. ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns? Yes.

b. ban assault weapons?Yes.

c. mandatory waiting periods and background checks? Yes.

Obama's campaign later told Politico that the candidate "never saw or approved" the completed questionnaire, that his campaign manager had filled it out, and that she "unintentionally mischaracterize[d] his position."

At the end of March, Politico published another story saying that Obama had actually been interviewed by the group on his answers to the questionnaire, and that he filed an amended version of it the day after the interview. His handwriting was at the bottom of the first page and some answers were modified, such as his response to a question about whether minors should be required to notify their parents or get their consent before having an abortion. The answers to the questions about gun bans, however, were not changed.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Kruezmissle-

Actually given Obama's weaknesses with working class and Latin voters- Colorado is out- he won DEMOCRATIC CAUCUSES there- which favor professionals and have a tiny relative amount of people voting- she is actually more likely to win there in the general election. The same thing goes for New Mexico. Obama will actually have to compete in CA due to his problems with working class and Latin voters. The only new state he brings in is VA (WI and IA also, but Gore won those-Kerry lost them) but the problem is he loses MI and has to compete to win in PA resulting in the Republicans winning the White House 290 to 248.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Obama did a bit of historical rewriting regarding his previous statements on wearing a U.S. flag pin in his lapel.

Obama: I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with. ...

Actually, last year he told an interviewer for station KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

Obama, Oct. 2007: I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I'm gonna try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.

And ABC News quoted him as saying that wearing flag pins had become "a substitute for ... true patriotism":

Obama, Oct. 2007: You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. ... Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. ...

Conservative critics have attacked Obama repeatedly for these remarks and his lack of a flag pin. Obama said during the debate that this "distracts us from what should be my job when I'm commander in chief, which is going to be figuring out how we get our troops out of Iraq and how we actually make our economy better for the American people."

Recently, at an April 15 rally in Washington, Pa., he accepted a lapel pin given to him by Philip Fiumara, a disabled Vietnam veteran. "It means a lot coming from you," Obama said.

We take no stand on whether wearing a pin or not says anything about anybody's patriotism. And Obama is within his rights to characterize discussion of the matter as a "distraction." Those are matters of opinion. But as a matter of fact, Obama went too far when he denied ever saying, "I don't wear flag pins."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Kreuzmissle-

Check your facts on the popular vote.

From realclearpolitics.com
Popular Vote (w/FL & MI)** 13,931,423 47.6% 13,837,418 47.2% Obama +94,005 +0.4%

94,000 is not a lot of votes. .4% is not a substantial margin.

Also he is behind in primary total votes if caucuses are not counted- caucuses are ridiculous exercises where small percentages of people representing those with financial and social advantage are way more likely to be able to vote,
Look at this chart: http://www.theleftcoaster.com/archives/Election2008/TLC_eriposte_2008_Dem_caucus_turnout_margin_new.gif

Basically, the higher the turnout- the better it is for HRC- so who is about holding back the vote? Caucuses are undemocratic and should be eliminated in the future- but for now, picking our candidate based on them is a very bad idea (the only largish state other than home Illonois that Obama won that had a primary where he did not win by astronomical margins in the large AA populations was WI- a great victory, but an anomyly.)

Leon

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 11:46 PM | Report abuse

How about the media's refusal to report that the contest fir the nomination is essentially over? Who does that favor? All of the debates have been ridiculous. The CNN You Tube debate was totally fatuous also. Watch the BBC. I am embarrased for all of us.

Posted by: Jacknyc | April 19, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

c'mon, it was just a stupid debate with stupid questions by stupid moderators who are totally out of touch w/ America.

Since when is it the business of you journalists to lay out the Republican (Or Clinton) attack strategy and give it legitimacy?

I mean, it's what you've done time after time, but it's not supposed to be your job.

Posted by: chicagoexpat | April 19, 2008 11:32 PM | Report abuse

I blocked the Fox News channel because of their right wing propaganda. I've now done the same for ABC. All the Clinton supporters on this site and elsewhere are missing the point. The press doesn't favor Obama. It is pushing McCain, and they figure McCain can beat Clinton more easily than Obama. Instead of chortling over Obama's treatment, you should be joining in the protest against right wing media bias. Why do you think Gibson is concerned about capital gains? It's not because he's dependent on a minimum wage job or social security!

Posted by: KC | April 19, 2008 11:30 PM | Report abuse

The questions weren't hard-they were simply inane and pointless. We have some of the most dire problems we've ever faced ahead of us and ABC wastes our time with this drivel. It is well time to rethink the debate system since it has degenerated to this.

Posted by: Darrix | April 19, 2008 11:28 PM | Report abuse

We already know that both candidates have similar policy positions - on paper. The questions about character were entirely appropriate at this juncture. What little we know about the man behind the suit is very disturbing. There are so many nefarious associations and comments he has made himself that REQUIRE the media to ask for us. He is a product of one of the most corrupt cities in political history...and rose to the top. How? Who helped him? Why?

As Clinton said - her baggage has been routed through for over 15 years. We know her. We know little about Obama that hasn't been put out by his campaign and designed for public consumption by Axlerod.

The Obama camp would not be complaining about the questions if their candidate had been capable of answering them. Instead, he stuttered and stammered and tried to remember what lie he told last. He melted.

Posted by: Typical White Pennsylvanian | April 19, 2008 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, that wasn't a debate but a public spectacle, and the "reporters" did not prepare for news but for the hope of some fireworks.

The sort of special pleading that Chris, David Brooks, and some of the posters here make -- that the 45 minutes focused on smears on Obama were simply what he might encounter from Republicans -- hardly justifies polluting the airwaves with it.

If, and when, swiftboaters appear from the woodworks, a reporter can reasonably give Obama 1 minute -- like the two questions to Hillary about Tuzla and honesty -- to rebut them.

Wasting half of the time on questions from Sean Hannity and folks who have been on record as "distrusting" Obama for over a year, and the rest on questions that sound like they were prepared by the rich folks trying to erase the inheritance tax (and clearly would never be Democrats), is both disingenuous and dishonest.

These were not questions about character, or about ideas. They were efforts to "catch" the candidates (although, as David Brooks pointed out, virtually all were addressed to Obama, as the front runner).

The end result of that sort of game is a set of candidates who either say nothing or say anything; Mitt Romney, anyone?

This isn't credible in the country of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Posted by: Helen | April 19, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

First of all Stephanopolous and the Clintons had a MAJOR public falling out, so to say the Stephanopolous was in her camp is ridiculous.

Secondly, given the perceived hostility towards America and Whites coming out of Obama's MENTOR Rev. Wright,asking Obama to explain himself is a fair question. Don't forget, while his speech on race was beutiful, he did not address the question regarding the apparent contradiction between Obama's stated beliefs and lofty rhetoric and those of Rev. Wright's.

TO democrats, questions regarding Our love for America, the American Flag, God, and our associations with those who seem to hate America seem trivial compared to other questions. However, to many Conservatives and to some independents (voters that Obama claims he can get) they are important because they help explain someone's character... in fact many of You Obama supporters state that you hate Hillary and her "minions" not because of her policies (Which are similar to Obama's) but what you perceive is her Character flaws...For these reasons the questions were not as trivial as many people here think because they try to uncover something deeper.

Posted by: David M. | April 19, 2008 10:32 PM | Report abuse

kreuz just misstated above. She claims that Fla is a dead heat b/w Sen Obama and John McCain.

Here are Clear Politics lates Fla numbers; there are other polls showing the Fla numbers even worse for Sen Obama:
RCP Average 03/15 - 04/10 - 49.7 38.0 9.7 McCain +11.7
Rasmussen 04/10 - 04/10 500 LV 53 38 9 McCain +15.0
Quinnipiac 03/24 - 03/31 1136 RV 46 37 9 McCain +9.0
PPP (D) 03/15 - 03/16 618 LV 50 39 11 McCain +11.0


I am really straining to have a reasonable discussion with you but you prefer to just make things up. Look at the above ACTUAL POLLING numbers, regarding Fla, and not just things you believe or dream up. How is 9 points, 11% points and 15% points a dead heat? In what parallel universe is that?

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Steigs, in China where the media is government controlled, people have no idea what's happening on the other side of the commie filter. They get it slanted or else.

We owe ABC a debt of gratitude for turning what has been a highly controlled message on almost every Liberal media outlet, to one where these guys finally had the guts to vet Obama.

This debate walloped all the others for ratings and viewers. That's democracy.

You can't just wash one candidate's dirty laundry and not the other's..

Posted by: VAMMAP | April 19, 2008 10:23 PM | Report abuse

As soon as I learned that George Stephanopolis would be a moderator of this "joint interview", certainly not a debate, I knew where it was headed. After all, George doesn't want to be labeled a Judus.

Posted by: Lilly1 | April 19, 2008 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Best analysis I have seen so far.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/04/19/tough_questions_or_just_plain_bias?mode=PF

"Tough questions or just plain bias?

By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist | April 19, 2008

IT IS fair to make presidential candidates squirm about dubious associations in debates. But the way ABC News moderators stretched Barack Obama on the rack for his ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright was curious. For nearly three decades, such moderators of debates and their journalist panels have failed to probe similar ties of other candidates.

In some 1,600 words of transcript, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos tried to eviscerate Obama in Philadelphia on Wednesday, weeks after the candidate's address on race and his former minister. Rival Hillary Clinton tried to detonate a scare-the-white-folks F-bomb, saying, "it wasn't only the specific remarks, but some of the relationships with Rev. Farrakhan . . ."

She knew she need not elaborate. She knew she would not face in-kind grilling, as Stephanopoulos was once a senior policy adviser to Clinton's husband.

By the way, just how did the wife of "America's First Black President" lose almost the entire African-American vote during the primaries?

Obama was arguably asked more about Wright in one night than what has been asked for the last 28 years in presidential debates of all white candidates about their dubious associations with racist elements of religion and society.

The media exploded over Wright calling us the "US of KKK-A." Ronald Reagan became president despite kissing the ring of the KKK, starting his 1980 general election campaign by proclaiming "states' rights" in Mississippi, near where three civil rights workers were murdered. "States' rights" was code for segregation. Reagan was not asked about "states rights" in his debate with President Jimmy Carter.

Reagan's first term was marked by a failed bid to grant tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, the Bible school which, among several un-American lapses, banned black students until the 1970s and interracial dating until 2000.

Reagan was not asked about Bob Jones in the 1984 debates. Nor was Reagan asked about his coddling of apartheid South Africa. In the 1996 debates, Bob Dole was not asked about his visit to Bob Jones University.

The junior George Bush did face debate questions about Bob Jones in the 2000 Republican primaries after speaking at the school. Bush said he was against the ban on interracial dating, but rationalized, "I followed a long tradition of both Republican and Democratic candidates that went to lay out their vision. Ronald Reagan went to Bob Jones, my dad went to Bob Jones, Bob Dole . . . I talked about bringing people together so America can achieve its greatness."

Then-rival John McCain, today the presumptive Republican nominee, declared in 2000, "We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, not Bob Jones."

But McCain claimed that if had been invited to Bob Jones, "I would have gone . . . and I would have said, 'Look, what you're doing in this ban on interracial dating is stupid, it's idiotic and it is incredibly cruel to many people.' "

That put the media to sleep. Bob Jones was not brought up in Bush's general election debates. The long tradition continued in the 2008 Republican primaries with Mitt Romney being "happy" with his endorsement from Bob Jones III.

Romney said he and Jones "love this country." No such conjunctive privilege is extended to the biracial Obama. In Philadelphia, Clinton repeated, "I would not have stayed in the church."

Obama instead was administered a personal loyalty and national patriotism test about his minister, a former Marine. Stephanopoulos asked Obama, "Do you think Rev. Wright loves America as much as you do?"

From Reagan to Romney, Republicans can to this day go to Bob Jones to "bring people together."

Obama instead is asked by the moderators to hand them either his former minister's head, or his own. Does your minister love America as much as you?

Answer no, he disowns the man who officiated his marriage and baptized his children, diminishing the very complexities he spoke about in his speech on race. . Answer yes, Obama destroys his campaign."

Posted by: Jamer | April 19, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

my 3 reasons(not 2) why Obama supporters need to stop complaining about George Stephanopholous' selection as a moderator. Why now rather than when agreed by David Axelrod and Sen Obama? They could have said no when the debate was agreed to by their campaign. I think that is a reasonable question. Perhaps they thought that playing the victim card might better serve their campaign if things didn't turn out so great for them which it obviouly didn't.

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Actually, polling shows all three of those states currently a dead heat, PA only being so because SV, a republican poll, shows McCain up 10 while Rasmussen, which is far more respected, has Obama well out in front. So, if you'd like to quantify your bold assertions that he can't win in any of those states, please be my guest...

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 10:12 PM | Report abuse

The pro Obama media bias is real..

The best way to discern what's reliable news and what isn't, is by looking at all of them, frequently, over a period of time. While doing this try to forget your bias and just look at how each candidate is represented: at all, not at all, negatively, positively, and how often, you get the general drift. It should be elementary, but we are so biased we can't see what's right in front of our noses..

For this election, it is clear most of the media is in the tank for Obama including: Wash Post, CNN, Huff Post, Daily Kos, Newsweek, Time, the list goes on...

The Zogby poll is out again today with a new result showing Clinton slowly inching up. Are any of these sites featuring it?
No!

CNN banned Clinton surrogates until recently when Paul Begala sat in for Clinton this week.

The media bias for Obama is real. If you recall that was the case for GWB, another Teflon candidate, who could do no wrong, say no wrong.

And look how that turned out.


Posted by: VAMMAP | April 19, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Shales was right -- the debate was a disgrace. ABC owes our democracy an apology. It wasn't that it was unfair to Obama. He's a front-runner so ask him questions. But don't waste a whole hour on inane questions. "Does Reverend Wright love America?" What??? The flag pin? Reviewing the Bosnia flap again. An hour before actual substance was discussed. As Jon Stewart -- who would be a far superior moderator, sad to say -- pointed out, the economy is the number one concern of voters in polls. Yet it was the 16th question they asked. Oh, and Charlie Gibson doesn't appear to understand tax policy or that most Americans don't earn more than $100K per year. I don't watch ABC News -- and now I know I'm not missing anything. If I want to find out what Matt Drudge is posting, I'll go to his site.

Posted by: Steigs | April 19, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Dan asked how did George get to be a moderator at the debate? Simple David Axelrod and Sen Obama waited until after the debate to complain, shouldn't that maake you suspicious. They had plenty of opportunties dan before the debate to object 2 questions: 1. Why neither did? Do you have evidence otherwise b/c if you do that would truly be news worth repeating.
2. We are now 4 days post debate and your side is still complaining. A reasonable person could conclude that that is an indication that your candidate's performance was not very good. that is what the New York Times and focus groups have conclude; and 3. If your candidate's performance was good do you suspect he and his campaign would be complaining 4 days later and 72 hours before voting begins in Pa? That is doubtful?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 10:07 PM | Report abuse

kreuz stated: Obama will be every bit as competitive in FL as Clinton"

My question is based upon exactly what, other then your effection for Senator Obama? I think I know a little bit more about the huge Jewish community in Fla who's roots are as New Yorkers than you and I can tell you that an overwhelming number of Jewish voters are displeased to say the least with Senator Obama. I had a long conversation with my rabbi and he and his wife are both state delegates for HC. They are not pleased with at least the 'perception' of Senator Obama's assocication with 1. Rev Wright and his links to Hamas literature 2. The 'perceived' association of Obama and Louis Farakham, anathma to the Jewish community 3. Jimmy Carter's to be, endorsement of Obama that Pres Carter acknowledge would create problems with Jewish voters and how that was perceived in Israel 4. Sen Obama' willingness to meet with Iran's President and willingness to have him come to the Whitehouse 5.Sen Obama's reluctance to join HC regarding standing up to Iran if they attack Israel.
HC ccampaign has a large number of Jewish campaign people who are not pleased with how they have perceived being treated by their opponents. The touching of Sen Obama's sole of his shoes when mentioning HC at a N Carolina speech also did not sit well with Jewish voters.We know what that syblizes. You also mentioned how strong Obama is doing in Ohio which is incorrect. There are a large number of Catholic voters in Ohio, I know I spent 2 months working integrally with the Strickland campaign. Currenly HC is getting over 62% of the Catholic vote and Sen Obama struglling to reach 30%. Ohio is also made up of large numbers of blue collar, Eastern European and rural voters who will be turned off by Sen Obama overtures to a SF audience, again whether you like or agree with that. Sen McCain is thought of positively as a moderate by the Jewish community, whether true or not, and his immigration bill was well received by the Hispanic community. There is also cultural friction b/w the African Amer and Hispanic community which I feel is unwarranted as are many of the perception of the Jewish community. These are my reasons why I feel that Sen Obama will be toast in Fla in the general election which doesn't even touch the elderly community that doesn't trust Sen Obama, its a generational thing, and would likely be attracted to John McCain, especially if Dems make attacks on John McCain's age which will backfire with that generation.
These are my heartfilled concerns about Sen in both Fla and Ohio and why I strongly belief he didn't want a revote in Fla. Unlike you I am not making a blanket statement that Sen Obama will lose Fla and I understand that HC will be more competitive like Kerry in Fla but still starts 4-5% points down in Fla. But 4-5% points is far different than 15-18% points down in Fla which screams don't bother to waste your time and resources. It also means that John McCain need not put a lot of time and resources in Fla against Sen Obama but might be tied down there against HC, a significant strategy difference. If you have evidence or factual support otherwise I would gladly consider your thoughts, but don't bother just saying I believe he will compete effectively in Fla and Ohio. Why or is it just your blind huntch?

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

How did ABC get away with Stephanopolous as a moderator for this debate. The man is so close to Bill Clinton that it is a legitimate conflict of interest. It's akin to James Carville moderating a debate.

And why did the Obama campaign allow ABC to use Georgie.

Posted by: Dan | April 19, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

The problem of the debate wasn't one of either Clinton or Obama getting it 'easier' than the other. It's that the public was treated like a bunch of third graders interested only in politics held at the level of a daytime scandal show. This was a chance for the public to get better informed, and most thinking people probably switched off in frustration and annoyance by the time the relevant issues of the campaign came up.

Saturation coverage of Obama's 'bitter' comment wasn't unfair to Obama, it was unfair to underinformed voters who watched tv news during those four days in the hope of learning something meaningful about how the candidates would govern.

Posted by: Bradley | April 19, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

I am an indepedent Canadian living in the US enthralled by American politics. The difference in the debate fall-outs is that when they go after Sen. Clinton it is always on issues (drivers licenses), flip-flops, or scandals (Whitewater, etc.)and never for her personal associations. Personally I think she has so many legitimate baggage on just the issues they do not need to dwelve further. Sen Obama, on the other hand, has never once been criticized on the issues, flip-flops or scandals. They only attack him on marginal things like personal associations or misspoken words. Probably because he is new and less time to be tainted and contaminated by Washington. I think this gives the public the impression he is relatively clean and the Reps, Clintons, and the media are desperate to find anything on him. I think ABC was desperate to look hardball (excuse the pun)on the front runner and went after these flimsy personal association attacks and the shallowness of both the issue and the attack is clearer to Joe Public and that is why there is backlash for Obama.

Posted by: Jay | April 19, 2008 9:21 PM | Report abuse

The big problem was not that the ABC moderators were anti-Obama (in other "debates," more pointed questions were aimed at Clinton), but that their questions were trivial, uninformative, and lazy--designed to elicit media moments rather than to shed any light on the real issues or on the candidates. Gibson also showed his ignorance about basic economics. We would do much better to just have the candidates alone on a stage for two hours.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

My guess is blogs on the WashingtonPost, CNN, NY Times, etc are going to see a lot more pro-Obama comments and anti-Hillary comments. I think the Hillary supporters are just tired of the media because of the media's obvious bias. Since most the media leans toward Obama, his supporters are glee to read it.

Read the CNN blogs. There is about 1 blog that supports Hillary for 10 that support Obama

Posted by: Badger | April 19, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

To kreuz: I did look at your states in your 08:17PM Post and see three, Ohio, Pa., and Fla. that he has no chance of winning. Michigan is almost a certain win for McCain due to the stupidy of the Dem party headed by Dean. I can only see Mass. as the only "Sure" state the Dems would win and I have begain to have my doubts even there. This guy is a LOSER and the sooner the rational Dems realize this and reject him will save the party from destruction.

Posted by: lylepink | April 19, 2008 9:07 PM | Report abuse

For an in-depth analysis of the two Dem candidates and how they compare/contrast, check out the article in the April 17th issue of The New York Review of Books entitled "Molehill Politics" by Elizabeth Drew. It's online; a good read, indeed.

Posted by: goodbyetoallthat | April 19, 2008 8:59 PM | Report abuse

For an in-depth analysis of the two Dem candidates and how they compare/contrast, check out the article in the April 17th issue of The New York Review of Books entitled "Molehill Politics" by Elizabeth Drew. It's online; a good read, indeed.

Posted by: goodbyetoallthat | April 19, 2008 8:59 PM | Report abuse

G.S. should not have been involved in any manner, shape or form to prevent the appearance of impropriety.

Character questions may be necessary; however, they also did not include current relevant new topics like...

1.White House top level staff discussing torture tactics.

2.Jimmy Carter meeting with Hamas.

3.Relevance of any constitutional issues since they were in Constitution Hall.

A few character questions could have been asked of both of them interspersed with relevant life changing policies for the United States.


What ABC did appeared to be a pile on attack of Barack Obama as the first order of business. And really who needed to hear Hillary Clinton provide an explanation of Bosnia again.

It is the medias responsibility to inform during a debate not sensationalize.

It is if GS and CG do not even pay attention to the news issues they provide with their own telecast or website.

Really commercial TV was not served well by those two. GS not surprising but CG I am so disappointed.

And the way they utilized Ms. Flag Pin (who forgot to wear her own flag pin) was reprehensible. GS & CG where were your pins?

Posted by: fedupcitizen | April 19, 2008 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Simply put, this is not the type of politics Americans want and the ABC debate just perpetuated gutter politics that do nothing to help us solve the real problems facing this nation.

Posted by: Daniel K | April 19, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse

"Oregon Governor scheduled to endorse Hillary Clinton."

Um, he endorsed her in December...

http://www.hillaryclinton.com/news/release/view/?id=4697

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

The onus of this debate is on ABC. If I am going to take the time to watch a debate, I want to hear substantive questions on substantive issues. I don't want to hear about lapel pins.

Posted by: Truth or Couth | April 19, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

The "press" is wild about Obama = why? is beyond me! I thought that the questions put to him about his bitter pastor/mentor, and his ties to a known terroist were appropriate. He is the mystery candidate (possibly "Manchurian"). With all the hoo=ha, tingles up the legs, et.al. by many in the media - what will happen if he doesn't win the nomination, or the general election? Riots in the streets to make Watts pale in comparison?

Posted by: Linda | April 19, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Also, leichtman, let me be clear on this one: I don't think either should ocncede FL, I think both would contest it and strongly (again, force McCain to play defense there), I just think both would lose it in the end.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Since November is looming on the minds of some here, let's look at the numbers today:

National average of polls:

Obama 46.3%
McCain 44.5%
http://www.pollster.com/08-US-Pres-GE-MvO.php

Clinton 45.3%
McCain 44.8%
http://www.pollster.com/08-US-Pres-GE-MvC.php

Even with the Dems badly split right now, both run ahead of McCain.

Now, I'd postulate anyone with a D next to their name will win the following states (with the possible exception of Kucinich, but that's not really relevant now):

CA (55)
NY (31)
IL (21)
NJ (15)
MA (12)
WA (11)
MD (10)
CT (7)
HI (4)
RI (4)
VT (3)
DE (3)
DC (3)

That's 179 votes as an absolute base.

With Obama, we lock up the following states:

MI (17)
MN (10)
WI (10)
OR (7)
IA (7)
NM (5)
NH (4)
ME (4)

Giving him a start of 243, and then competing strongly in:

PA (21)
OH (20)
VA (13)
MO (11)
CO (9)
NV (4)

A low of 243, a high of 321.

With Hillary, we take that start of 179, add for her the following states that should be easy wins for her:

PA (21)
AR (6)

Giving her a starting point of 206, leaving her to contest the following states:

FL (27)
OH (20)
MI (17)
MO (11)
MN (10)
WI (10)
OR (7)
IA (7)
NM (5)
NH (4)
ME (4)
NV (4)

A low of 206, a high of 332. Personally, factoring in what states will be competiive with each candidate, the money situation, the relative negative approval ratings, the campaign skills demonstrated to this point, our down-ticket prospects, and the general trends I see heading into this campaign, Obama is still clearly stronger.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Chris,
It was clearly a case of the media going way overboard with the trivialities of the campaign season. They sunk to new lows with their taped "average citizen" question about "whether you, Senator Obama, love the flag." The question about ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers was not much better. Hillary got two tough ones, but Obama clearly was the focus of ABC's slog through the minutiae of muck - 45 frickin' minutes of it, fer crissakes!!! It was, by far, the worst debate ever - even worse than the Cleveland debate with slimy Tim Russert as co-moderater, who was obviously unfair to Clinton in that debate. Clinton had the right to complain after that one. Obama had the right to complain after this latest "debate," and we ALL have a right to expect better debate questions from the media moderators. This is for the Presidency, not the championship of the WWF.

Posted by: Chuck | April 19, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Obama will be every bit as competitive in FL as Clinton, and will add the other states I've mentioned to the map more than offsetting it anyways. Clinton can't contest CO, VA, and a number of other prime states. It is a chess state, and only Obama can play the whole board, as I've said here time and time again. Hillary has neither the funding or organization to contest these states, and after deriding them so much in the primary process she's only hurt herself more for the fall. Thank you for proving my point, though, all Hillary's folks are looking at is FL and OH. This is why the Dems have failed so much recently. Obama embodies the 50state strategy and will run a true national campaign- he's the only one who has to this point, and it's precisely why he has an insurmountable lead.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Oregon Governor scheduled to endorse Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 7:36 PM | Report abuse

kreuz: first of all you do not know first sure there is no possible way you could say so,that HC can not win Florida. She is wildly popular with the large numbers of Jewish and Hispanic community there. And secondly of Sen Obama if he simply can not compete in Fla (currently he is down by 15% or more) conceding that state like McCain will likely do with Ca. provides a huge advantage for McCain in time and resources that he can spent tying up Sen Obama in critical states like Ohio and Pa which will be difficult at best for Sen Obama. Looking at it objectively, our nominee must be at least competitive in Fla, which you should honestly concede thatSen Obama currently is not. As you recall John Kerry who I am sure you will say is different spent an enormous amount of time in states like Michigan and Pa, places which should not be a problem for Dems b/c W walked away from Ca and spent little time in Fla. Its all a chest game in the fall and we can't afford to let our opponents have a huge advantage in places like Fla or Ohio with large numbers of electoral votes. I am sure you will argue otherwise but I ask you to seriously consider Obama's problems with Florida and Ohio blue collar voters. He will struggle if he is the nominee in Pa as well but Gov Rendell has vowed as a loyal Dem to drag him across the Pa finish line in Nov if necy, but he has no such luxury in Fla with Gov Crist and the Jeb machine.

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm just not sure why it is an issue when Barak gets tough questions in one debate and for the other 16 months, Hillary gets the tough questions-

How about the news sticks to policy and record with some small degree of politics if necessary from now on? I know this won't happen, but if the Obama people would go for it, I know that the Clinton people would- she has survived repeated attacks from people in the press, whether it is her supporters suggesting that innocuous things her or her husband said are racist (Donna Brasille, who owes us all to shut up since she guided the Gore's absolutely awfully run campaign helped him win SC big by suggesting that "fairy tale" is a racist term and the LBJ reference was deragatory to King, among many, many others), or the standard right wing attacks, which have been joined recently by the left wing and MSNBC comparing her to Bush and other fascists (Chris Matthews- when she talks I want to close my legs)...

Obamites have no right to complain. He has been treated as the golden boy throughout.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Ken as someone who has spent a great deal of time in Calgery, and have personally spoken with Canadian CEOs(in Canmore) about how sorry they feel for our broken healthcare system, and how they respect HC's knowledge about real/comprehensive healthcare reform, my answer is:

YES YES YES !
Is that clear enough for you sir?

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Ken as someone who has spent a great deal of time in Calgery, and have personally heard from Canadian CEOs how they sorry for our broken healthcare system, my answer is:

YES YES YES !
Is that clear enough for you sir?

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Hi! everyone
I'm Canadian and as a close neighbour of the the United States and one of many interested Canadians I have one question?

Do you really, really want Hilary Rodham Clinton leading your country?

Think about that very carefully!

Posted by: Ken | April 19, 2008 6:45 PM | Report abuse

The debate proved the following:

A) Obama is the front runner.

B) ABC News planned to play 'gotcha" on Obama.

C)Clinton was hurt by the debate more than Obama. She admitted lying and had to face the polls that show 60% of voters think she is dishonest. f".

D)Obama has a grass roots support that will rally and fight when he is unfairly attacked.

E)Obama is learning to "brush it off".

Posted by: Sean | April 19, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

lyle,

1. NEITHER Hillary nor Obama will win FL, unless it's a landslide the likes of which won't require FL's EVs anyways. Obama is down 11 there, and Hillary is down 7. It's been trending redder while many other parts of the country have been trending more purple-blue.

2. Both perform nearly equally well in both OH and PA, and both will win both of those states in the general, especially if Obama upts Rendell on the ticket as I still think he might (saves PA, appeases the Jewish vote who for some reason are a bit paranoid about him). I don't see how you can logically say there's no way he can win the GE becasue the polls disagree with you, the down-ticket races disagree with you, and virtually every other metric out there disagrees with you. Dems will kick butt in VA with the senate race there, and Obama on the ticket puts that in play. Even if he doesn't win, he forces McCain and the Republicans to play defense there, wasting time and money that they do not have. Colorado has been trending Dem for a while, and Udall's likely Senate win will also drive up the Democratic vote in that state (just like in NM). Hillary, on the other hand, will be playing off the same map as in 2000 and 2008, focusing everything on OH and FL, picking up only Arkansas while playing defense in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, and several other states, all of which she must hold because really, of FL and OH, only OH is truly attainable. Besides that, after now turning on Moveon.org, she's planning on running this table without democratic activists, African Americans, young voters, educated white voters, voters from caucus states, etc. Put it another way: Obama has already won the nomination unless Hillary can put up the numbers I've quoted before. If the nomination is stolen from him, I won't be voting at all this year, and a lot of folks are in the same boat (that was the real message for Supers this week, FirstRead on MSNBC picked up on that- Obama's base is strong, organized, energized, and WILL NOT be denied).

3. Obama is a money magnet, who has run a strong organization from day 1. Hillary is broke, has been outmaneuvered throughout the primary process, and her main donors have been maxed out. That tells me all I need to know about both of them, both for the general election and how they would run their administrations. Obama will run an effective nationwide campaign, will put more in play, and win a strong mandate. Hillary wil play for FL and OH, and probably win ugly and without coattails or the kind of broad support necessary to push any agenda through Congress, just like her husband back in the 1990s (in terms of coattails and broad support, not winning ugly).

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Unhappy with the mishandling of the presidential debates by irresponsible elements in the media? Free Press can help.

http://www.freepress.net/about_us

Spread the word.

Posted by: FREEPRESS.net | April 19, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Although it's problematic to psychoanalyze the questions, I think there's something there as well. Stephanopolous asked Obama "Do you think Rev. Wright loves America as much as you do". This question is framed in a subtle but nefarious way. Obama can't simply say, Wright loves America. He has to specifically say, yes, he does (in which case the headline is: Obama loves America as much as Wright does.); or, no, he doesn't (in which case the headline is: Obama says Wright doesn't love America). The premise of the question links Obama's patriotism to Wright's, which is generally questioned by America (with good reason).
Also, the big question of the night from Stephanopolous to Clinton was, "Can Obama beat McCain in November". Everyone agreed that Clinton was forced to say, "yes, yes, yes". But, there's another way to look at this. Again, the premise of the question puts Obama's electability on the table in a national broadcast. Any new viewers that are tuning in automatically now know that Obama's electability has been questioned by Clinton behind closed doors. It's now a known, legitimate issue for anyone watching.
Plus, did either moderator interrupt Clinton to make the point that when she "said things that she knew didn't reflect the reality of what happened" that what she's really saying is that she lied? No, they let her side-step.
Look at the way the questions were framed, they seem to be strategic in nature to cause controversy, not to better understand the issues.

Posted by: vshawnt | April 19, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama showed he can take the heat.

Hillary looked like a little girl.

Obama showed that he is the real deal. He is the person ready from Day One. Hillary can not even pay her donut bill.

Obama '08.

Posted by: Words of Wisdom | April 19, 2008 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Horrified, Outraged by George's questions.
Simple question: the why did the Obama campaign not object to George being one of the moderators. They apparently wanted it both ways. If their candidate stood up strongly at the debate they would claim that he is the strong candidate who can stand up to tough questioning. If not as his supporters now acknowledge, they could complain via te text messages and emails to have their supporters scream on every blog site how they were ambushed and how they would never watch ABC again. Who cares? Duplicity from the Obama campaign but obviously not the first or the last time.

Posted by: Leichtman | April 19, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I think the Obama campaign's description of the debate has taken hold with the public because the questions asked fit a fundamental narrative of his campaign - that the media focuses on inanities in the face of serious problems. In some ways, the moderators played into his hand by allowing him to point to their questions in what was a shaky debate performance. But it's not just "spin" or hypocrisy that have led him to say the debate questions were misguided - he was saying in Iowa that he didn't want to "re-fight" the fights from the 1990s; he said he wanted to focus on real issues during the debate; and he kept that line going after. The debate was another chapter in the broader argument he is making about raising the caliber of public discussion, so I think VandeHei and Harris miss the point when they dismiss the campaign's stance on the debate as mere spin. Finally, I think there is an extent to which Gibson and Stephanopoulos became the targets for general Democratic concern that the tenor of the race is damaging the party's chances of winning in November. (Full disclosure if it isn't obvious - I'm an Obama supporter).

Posted by: mf | April 19, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Few things in recent memory have made me laugh harder than Hillary's "If you can't stand the heat" remarks. This IS the woman who literally CRIED about how hard this running for President thing is, isn't it? Why does anyone bother to listen to a word that comes out of her mouth?

Posted by: Mac diPietro | April 19, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Hi Chris,

The debate was excellent.

Obama's been coddled by the press.

McCain will eat him alive.

The Democratic Party is in danger of losing its core supporters because of the cult of Obama.

I'm a hard-core Democrat, but I will vote for McCain if Obama's the candidate.

The Obama-nuts are nuts.

Posted by: The Russians and Chinese won't kiss Obama's butt | April 19, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

No, we aren't irritated with HARD questions, we're irritated with stupid, inane, rehashed, irrelevant, picayune, warmed-over pablum. If you want to give Obama HARD questions, ask about his health-care plan, or how he's going to stabilize entitlements while making a no-new-taxes pledge, or how he's going to pay for crumbling national infrastructure, or job-training programs, or student loans. Those would be hard. Lapel pins and serving on a charity board with some old bomb-throwing yippie . . . please. We're trying to elect a president of the US, not president of the Student Council. These guys just didn't do their homework.

Posted by: charlie | April 19, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

To scrivener [1]& kreuz-missile [2]: 1, Gore is out, period. His leaving Bubba and picking his harshest critic as his VP choice done him in as a power in the Dem party, I expect he will endorse Obama as another dig at Bubba and his obvious dislike for both Hillary and Bubba, who actually handed him the POTUS on a silver platter, and because of his HATRED of them cost him the election. 2, I think you are buying into the spin of the Repubs that show states you listed as winners for Dems. The missing are Ohio, Pa., and Fla. that Dems must win and cannot do with Obama at the head of the ticket. I have looked at every possibly scenario with Obama as the nominee and can find NO WAY he can win the GE. I have said from the beginning Hillary is the only Dem that can win in 2008, and from the Repubs efforts to stop her from getting the nomination, I am more convinced every day if she is not the nominee, McCain will win. IMHO, Obama has ZERO chance of being elected in 2008, and that has not changed from the beginning, but is reinforced on a daily basis.

Posted by: lylepink | April 19, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I think what's stupid is Hilary wants to have another debate. If a voter still can't decide after all of this then maybe voting is too hard for you too do and you should just forget about it. What can't you decide after all of this.

George Stehohnols went in their with questions from Sean Hanninty what don't we get. He went in there with an agenda. I hope it was worth it because I don't believe that he will get another chance at the debate.

I think what is happening during this election process is truly wonderful. The sleeping giant is waking up and the that is the American People. We are up and we are paying attention and it is never too late.

Posted by: bridgette | April 19, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The Obamamaniacs are on Planet O and nothing is getting them back on their spaceship to come back to Earth.


Posted by: Words of Wisdom | April 19, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

It was not the difficulty or unfairness of the questions that bothered me, it was their sheer inanity. Is there any chance we could get a debate run by Jim Lehrer at PBS? Or maybe by a panel of print journalists. ABC had produced the worst debate so far, but none of them have been very good. Television networks usually produce "infotainment" not news. Our country deserves better.

Posted by: bensonbark | April 19, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't really bothered by the unfairness to Obama, which is something I expected from ABC News and will expect from most of the media this fall. The Democrats in general need to get used to the fact that the media are in the tank for McCain, as was explained so well by the Post's own Dana Milbank.

What bothered me was ABC's treatment of its viewers, and of the public at large. To spend the first hour of a two-hour debate without mentioning health care, the economy, or the war forever removed ABC from the ranks of "journalism."

At best, they're running the World Wrestling Federation. At worst, they're propagandists. The flag pin question was a new low, and the Ayers question was straight out of Joseph McCarthy's playbook.

Posted by: Magic Dog | April 19, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Says P. Diddy:
"I wonder if Stephanopolous will respond to the criticisms on the show tomorrow and I wonder if any of the members of the "This Week" roundtable will take him to task for his failure on Wednesday."
We'll never know unless we read about P. Diddy, cuz we're gonna boycott the show. Avoid temptation and be out of the house and a mile away from the nearest television at that hour.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Gibsonapoulous was doing the Swiftboaters' bidding and legitimizing their despicable type of politics in the process. If the GOP slime machine wants to try an inject B.S. issues into the campaign, that's their perogative, but it is extremely unseemly for "journalists" who are allegedly at the top of their profession to engage in it.

As for those of you who think these sorts of questions were fair game or somehow legitimate, I hope for your sake that John McCain gets to answer questions like "whether Americans would like their first lady to be a multi-millionaire drug-addicted thief"?

Posted by: jbentley4 | April 19, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

First, lets all agree that in all likelihood HRC is not going to win the nomination - okay. At least grant me that as a premise.

Next, lets ask the question, would it be a better thing or worse thing for the COUNTRY if we move to a dynamic where the general public stops accepting it as okay that our political process is about painting candidates as caricatures and "Where's your flag pin?" is a question that is even asked? For my part, I believe that for better or worse, GWB has led this country into a place where we no longer have the luxury (?) of focusing on such important topics as whether or not the candidate keeps his hand over his heart until the end of the Pledge, or whether he has Whiz on his cheesesteak.

The problem is NOT that Obama got subjected to a 50 minute slime throwing and got annoyed. It is that it would serve us all to reject any further attempts by supposedly legitimate media to engage in that kind of crap *with any of the candidates*. In my view, the media is culpable in the state of our political system. It is up to us - the general population - to force a change to a system that works for US.

And if John McCain is elected after a process that focuses on the real issues facing this country, so be it. I think Obama wins going away if that kind of campaign process is followed, but if he doesn't, it is because a well-informed electorate chose otherwise and I'd be able to accept that in a hearbeat.

Posted by: Please take a step back Clinton supporters | April 19, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

as i have opined earlier...i lost a chunk of time that i will never get back, because the two chucklehead moderators attempted to show their deftness at hitting with "hard" questions...my discontent is not with hitting obama, but with hittng him with dopey questions that have been beaten to death by the 24/7...hillary has been beaten to death with the bosnia lie...the bottom line is that not every one will be satisfied, regardless of any answer given...as these primaries wind down, and the general election approaches, i would like to have the meat that i need to sustain and form an opinion on how they will govern, what they think, ect...we could go on ad nauseam about clinton's foibles, obama's legislative inexperience, but that is not going to get me any closer to a decision...asking those questions is not providing any new information about either...a golden opportunity was squandered for naught...i think less of abc, i think less of gibson and stephanopoulos and i am minimally enlightened as to clinton's and obama's plan of attack on this mess we call our government...it was a waste of time, money, and viewers' loyalties to the media...i'm sure clinton dug it because some of the heat was taken off of her...i'm sure obama was disgusted with the situation because he felt he had addressed said "important" issues...all i could think of is that no one was wearing the idiotic flag pin and who was obama to speak the sentiments of someone else(wright)? what absolute inane questioning.

Posted by: jazzgrrrl25 | April 19, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

The man gets a bill passed protecting veterens because of the conditions in Walter Reed and he is asked about a flag pin?

He sat on a Charity board that met 4 times a year for 4 hours to pass out grants and gets smeared because anothe man sat on that board?

The man grows up biracial in a country that can't even accept one race in a person let alone two, manages to be on track for President and he's hounded about his pastor? My God what strength of character he must possess.

No ABC didn't cross the line, this country has never had the need to draw one for the above 'issues'. But ABC has let the right wing attack machine and Clinton start drawing one for us. Shame on them.

Posted by: Terry | April 19, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

It's not about "toughness;" thats a red herring. It's about banality and, worse, the new belief by the MSM that they don't even have to wait for the Republicans to start the smears anymore. The mere fact that something has the potenital to be faked up into a vicious smear by the Republicans apparently makes it "news" now.

Josh Marshall at TPM explained it well, yesterday.

"I was mulling over the ABC debate this morning and the moderators' claim that knocking Obama with a more or less uninterrupted stream of Swift Boat gotchas was justified by focusing the debate on 'electability'. And it occurred to me that we have now crossed an important threshold where the Republican operative cadre has sufficiently disciplined and trained the press (and more than a few Democrats) that their own role may simply be redundant.

Think about it. Organized campaigns of falsehoods, distortions and smears used to be something most people thought of as a bad thing, if not something that's ever been too far removed from American politics. Now, however, members of the prestige press appear to see it not as a matter of guilty slumming but rather a positive journalistic obligation to engage in their own organized campaign of falsehood, distortion and smear on the reasoning that it anticipates the eventual one to be mounted by Republicans. In other words, we've gotten past the debatable rationale that journalists have no choice but to cover smears and distortions once they're floated into the mainstream debate to thinking that journalists need to seek out and air smears and distortions on the grounds of electability, as though the mid-summer GOP Swiftboating was another de facto part of the election process like primaries, conventions and debates."

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/189901.php

Even most distressing, yet predictable, to me, however, has been the utter imperviousness of those most committed to this kind of journalism--ABC News, Politico and, of course, imitation news organization Fox, or the Axis of Imbecility as I prefer to call them--to the criticism. In their minds, this is what journalism is, what' its all about. They are genuinely puzzled and annoyed by the criticism and, as usual, dismiss it as the carping of silly little people who don't understand what journalism is all about. When people say they they want the MSM to stop the trivial, personality based tripe that's supplanted political journalism over the last two decades, the guys who are doing it translate the criticism in their heads as "rigid leftwing ideologues who want us to stop being objective and attack from the left."

Look, its just this simple. Go back and watch a press conference in Reagan's day and compare it to one of GWB's. If you aren't depressed by the difference, you are incapable of understanding what the furor's about now.

And Chris? I give you credit for at least acknowledging the controversy, but your initial coverage of the debate shows you've become just as incapable as distinguishing between banal trivia-based smears and real issues as the Axis of Imbecility. I'd suggest a long chat with Dan Froomkin. You might learn something.

Posted by: Steve | April 19, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

When a supposed MSM debate moderator takes questions from Sean Hannity and his hate-machine sheeple, the media has jumped the shark.

Posted by: flarrfan | April 19, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Everything about that so-called debate was an embarrassment to our country...demonstrating greed and stupidity..instead of a discussion demonstrating the true differences between the positions of these two candidates..regarding TRADE, ENERGY, HEALTH CARE..there ARE differences. THAT embarrassing debate by those two moderators who behaved like bullying slobs on a playground with those rediculously useless and idiotic questions...causing a debate about the debate.....for ratings instead of from patriotism....and concern about helping the American Public understand the specific details from each candidate. ABC is now officially BANNED from MY TV until those two dudes are FIRED.

Posted by: Judy | April 19, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Obama supporters complaining about ABC debate moderators sound like baseball fans blaming the Umpires after their teams got beaten.

The debate was like a post convention sneak peek which may help Democrats to be prepared for what is coming from the Republican attack machine.

Like Hillary Clinton, her supporters are used to the political vetting from the Republicans.

The complaints against ABC moderators may be an indication that his supporters -like Barack Obama himself- are not yet prepared to face the political vetting during a Presidential election.

Posted by: Angel | April 19, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Some thoughts:

The first half of the Wednesday's event was so disappointing to so many for multiple reasons. Yes, for many Obama supporters it was upsetting because of the disproportionate aggressive questioning of their candidate. Yes, Clinton has be subject to disproportionately aggressive questioning in the past. She complained about it and it helped her to establish a narrative that she was being picked on--which worked fairly well for her. Obama is complaining about it now, and if Clinton's example holds, he may be able to establish the narrative that he is being unduly picked on with similarly advantageous results in term of fund raising, getting out the vote, and swaying a few undecideds. That is how politics gets played.

But the advantage or disadvantage of disproportional scrutiny is only one reason--and I think in the end a relatively small reason--for the dissatisfaction. More to the point, the questions were neither politically relevant nor illuminating. Here some will argue that flag pins, your preacher, your souped up version of a trip a decade earlier, or ones connection to ex-radicals (either by sitting on a board--a getting a relatively small financial donation--or pardoning and receiving via surrogates campaign/political support) speak to a candidates character--a person is revealed by the company (and accessories) they keep, etc. But this argument doesn't really work unless those connections are, in fact, linked to actions by the candidates themselves. Anyone who has been in politics for longer than six months has had cordial relations with--and probably received contributions from--someone who has skeletons in their closet, whether its shady financial deals (Whitewater and Rezko) or beliefs that are offensive to large groups of people. The Clintons do, Obama does, McCain does. Only the blinders of partisanship lead one side or another to believe their candidate does not have such connections (or not as many or not as damning) that can be drawn. The point is, this doesn't really tell us much about the candidates. If we are going to make claims about character, we would have to be looking at specific evidence of the influence of these relations on the actions of the candidates--and here is where the debate always breaks down into mere posturing. We start making assertions about what we understand to be the "lesson" that the candidate must have imbibed from the connection--without ever treating the relationships, however tenuous, as complexly as we treat our own. Further, if relations of this sort were going to tell us something about character, we would have to explore the "good" relationships as well as the "bad"--we would have to know how these were proportioned both quantitatively and qualitatively in their influence on the candidates. And of course that isn't easy (or maybe even possible with any exactness) to do (unless someone actually takes a bribe or openly espouses a particular "objectionable" idea--in which case we can judge the candidates on what they did or said--not on labored guilt by association. And this isn't really what the questions in Wednesday's event were about. Put another way, the same or similar "doubts" that were "explored" (not really) in the questions posed in the first half of the event could be raised about any candidate (from Mother Teresa to Charles Manson). So they tell us nothing. They tell us nothing about the character of the candidates, nothing about how they make decisions, and surprisingly little of any substance about even the specific "connections" being scrutinized. What such questions do inspire is the disastrously unhelpful discussions that permeate this and other blogs/papers/tv shows. Clinton supporters will list the "damning evidence" of Obama's connections to unsavory people and accuse his supporters of "drinking the cool-aid." Obama supporters will list the "damning evidence" of Clinton's connections to unsavory people and events in the past and call her a liar and a hypocrite. And both will feel self-righteous and justified in their position (and pretend or, more ominously, really believe that anyone who thinks otherwise must be mentally unwell). These topics will, if we allow them, play out in our decision making processes (whether someone prefers jelly or honey on their peanut butter sandwiches might also be a criteria). But that doesn't make them relevant to governing--which is, by definition, what makes something politically relevant.

So the first half of the debate on Wednesday was such a fiasco because it told us nothing relevant to the very important decision that we are, collectively, trying to make: how and through whom do we want to be governed?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Lylepink and schrivener:

YOu need to read a few more polls, take a macro look at the political environment (not just current polls, but downticket races and how they will affect turnout), and factor in the way the political circumstances will change once the race is down to a two-way between Obama and McCain.

1. Most of these issues don't have staying power because we're beating them to death now (when they come back in October, the general reaction will be, My god, are we really going down this path again, don't Republicans have SOMETHING more to offer?). In this extended political season and with the 24-hr news cycle and information overload on the internet, gotcha stories and things like this just don't have the staying power they used to- the distracotr issues that were big around Super Tuesday are completely forgoten now for the most part.

2. McCain has a lot of vulnerabilities on policy and his own scandals in history that haven't been discussed (Keating Five, etc). He is right now at about his strongest point, I see him going way downhill against either Dem, especially since his entire campaign is based on the Surge, and that's not going to pay him many dividens, especially when the economy slides further down the drain this summer.

3. Look at the polls. I posted a bunch yesterday when looking at the "states in play."


Obama v. McCain (Pollster.com averages, Dem-Rep)

10. Montana (R) (NA, it's a hunch right now)
9. Minnesota (D) (47.2-41.2)
8. Virginia (R) (43.1-52.2)
7. Michigan (D) (42.5-41.5)
6. Ohio (R) (43.2-45.5)
5. Pennsylvania (D)(43.4-44.1)
4. New Mexico (R) (44.2-50.4)*
3. Colorado (R) (46.0-43.5)
2. Nevada (R) (45.5-42.0)
1. Iowa (R) (47.5-42.6)

* (note: looking at this one, I'm not sure I buy the polling average calculation because SUSA and Rasmussen reached opposite conclusions, I think it's 50-50 right now)

Clinton vs. McCain
10. Iowa (R) (41.7-48.9)
9. Wisconsin (D) (43.7-46.2)
8. Oregon (D) (47.9-45.4)
7. Minnesota (D) (40.5-45.7)
6. Nevada (R) (46.5-40.5)
5. New Hampshire (D) (41.1-46.8)
4. New Mexico (R) (45.1-47.1)
3. Michigan (D) (40.5-45.7)
2. Ohio (R) (48.5-43.1)
1. Arkansas (R) (51.0-38.0)

Obama outperforms Clinton in Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, COlorado, Virginia, Oregon, Wisconsin, and numerous other ciritical swing states, and that's just talking right now, again before the party comes together and before some criticism is aimed at McCain. The only Blue state that is truly vulnerable with Obama is PA, and both Obama and Clinton are in excellent shape to pick up Ohio (CA is Obama +8, btw http://www.pollster.com/08-CA-Pres-GE-MvO.php). Both candidates will slaughter McCain in the fall with a united Democratic base, bt I think it's harder for that to happen if the supers override the popular vorte and the delegate count, both of which will be out-of-reach for Hillary after Tuesday unless she wins by the numbers I listed above.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Gore is out of it. He makes close to $10M a year as a Board member of Apple and through his other work. He knows his time is passed and that he is best used in a roving Ambassador kind of role. If you ever get to meet him in person and talk to him off camera, you will get the same impression, guaranteed. He's fat, happy, and retired. I love him, but he just doesn't have it in him to get on the campaign trail again.

Posted by: P Diddy | April 19, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

You have to be VERY careful with Rasmussen and SurveyUSA. Both are robo-caller polls that do NOT paint an accurate picture of the electorate.

The best polls are the big newspaper polls (random digit dial with human beings talking to human beings, properly phrased questions) and Quinnipiac (RDD with human/human interaction and some of the best phrased questions out there).

The methodology of these polls REALLY matters.

Posted by: P Diddy | April 19, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

It was a wasted opportunity for ABC on a number of fronts. On the political front, they could have forced both of these candidates to start illustrating the finer points of their policy proposals (as they've written on their respective Web sites). Good, sharp questioning would have helped us understand not simply the proposals (which are, again, on the candidates' respective Web sites), but the philosophies each candidate uses to arrive at them.

On another front, everyone knows network news is quickly disappearing. Every year there's a rumor that one of the networks will close its news operation and outsource it to CNN. Ratings are down across the board at all three networks. ABC had an opportunity to bring a sense of urgency and gravitas to the table and to demonstrate to all of us why network news still matters in the Internet age. Sadly, they demonstrated why network news is an anachronism and why television journalists are being replaced by bloggers as the premier source of well-informed opinion and analysis.

It was an entirely wasted opportunity for ABC News.

I wonder if Stephanopolous will respond to the criticisms on the show tomorrow and I wonder if any of the members of the "This Week" roundtable will take him to task for his failure on Wednesday. I also hope someone takes George Will to task for writing a piece that piled on the "Obama as elitist" talking points. If there's a single man on television who exemplifies elitist, it's George Will.

(full disclosure: I'm an Obama supporter and donor)

Posted by: P Diddy | April 19, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

TO lylepink:

As Hillary might put it: "Yes. Yes. Yes."

Obama cannot win. Hillary cannot win.

Gore-Obama can win.

But the window is closing in on Obama.

He can unify the party, be the kingmaker, and set himself up for 16 years -- 16 YEARS -- in the White House.

Or he can go "all or nothing" and lose it all.

Forget electoral politics for a moment. The truth is that the power elite will not allow Obama to be elected, not with a scant three years on the national scene. It is not to be. But he can be VP and preserve a shot for the top slot if he plays the long-term strategic hand.

Posted by: scrivener | April 19, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

"been" not being. Sorry.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey Chris, the proper question ought to be whether George Stephanapolous should have being a moderator considering his probable bias in favor of his former employers -- the Clintons!

OsiSpeaks.com

Posted by: KYJurisDoctor | April 19, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"And let's stick to the issues next time."

Now, in fairness, some of these are issues and should have been addressed, but not for 45 min straight, and not without some equal questioning the other way. "Bittergate" was appropriate and to be expected. A question or two on Wright, fine...but "Does Pastor Wright love America as much as you do?????" "I'm not questining your patriotism, but do you believe in the American Flag????" Gimme a break (and if that question isn't questioning patriotism, I'm not sure what it is questioning, does she wonder if he thinks it exists on a molecular level?). It's not that the quesions were hard, it's that they got to be just plain dumb, and it didn't suit the format. THis was more suited to a morning talk show than what was supposed to be a debate.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

schrivener: Polls are something I am watching and commenting about every day or so. I commented on another thread about California being in play should Obama be the Dem nominee, and a FEW folks think that Ca. would actually go Repub. The recent Rasmussen [Who i think tends 3 to 5% Repub] shows this to be a definite possibility.

Posted by: lylepink | April 19, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

To Kruez_missle:

Your arguments support the notion that Obama can win the nomination.

My argument is that he can't win the GENERAL.

None of your points counter my argument.

What are your aruments supporting the contention that Obama's inexperience and his inadequate responses to the personal attacks leave him mortally wounded against the GOP attack machine onslaught?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh please, like the Republicans aren't going to slam Obama in the general campaign with these same issues. Hillary/Obama is the Winning ticket this year!

Posted by: Republicans Rfor the Rich | April 19, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Says Clinton: I'm with Harry Truman on this: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen"

HYPOCRITE ALERT

From a previous NBC debate:
"I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues"

As a former big fan of the Clintons, I have to say I've had enough of her low rent campaign. Time to get out now Hillary.

And let's stick to the issues next time.

Posted by: Aussie view | April 19, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

All candidates should be subjected to the same line of questioning - and more - as Obama was. And, unlike all past debates, it shouldn't just stop with the candidates' replies and maybe a followup. What the candidate just said should be picked apart and fact-checked to the greatest extent possible and if they lied or misled they should be asked about that.

While that should be done on character issues, it would be even better if it were done about policy issues, and those asking the questions where policy experts from across the spectrum. If anyone wants to see real debates, support this plan:

http://nomoreblather.com/policy-debates

That proposal isn't going to get much support from the media/political establishment because it would reveal that the candidates' plans have huge glaring flaws.

Posted by: NoMoreBlatherDotCom | April 19, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

(To Fixanistas: I am reposting my earlier post of today to correct a serious typo! Thank you for your forebearance...)


BLAME THE MESSENGER -- ONLY TO A POINT -- AND HOPE OBAMA GETS THE MESSAGE

The problem with the debate: Priorities and tone.

Spending 45 minutes grilling Obama on trivialities such as flag pins confirmed the "gotcha!" intent. Tough questions about Obama's beliefs and associates are appropriate, but surely such questions would have been woven into a forum that also covered such pressing issues as the economy, the pace of troop withdrawals, and -- a topic that would have been befitting given the Phila. setting -- the constitutionality of laws passed since 2000 and the question of whether there will be a review of the legality of administration actions and directives.

All that said, to blame ABC for Obama's weak rejoinders is just making excuses. The questioning previewed what's to come from the GOP attack machine, and Obama failed to meet the test. He has yet to muster the ammunition with which to mount an effective defense against the coming onslaught. Only those who've been smitten by the dream can believe that Obama's "that's the old politics" response will suffice.

OBAMA MUST THROW A LATERAL TO AL GORE

If Hillary wins PA by a significant margin, Obama must throw his delegates to Gore in order to checkmate Hillary and preserve his political capital for a possible run as Gore's VP. He'll be the kingmaker, the peacemaker, and he'll be on the ticket to ensure that his supporters come aboard.

Hillary, by her divisive and self-serving actions and statements, already has disqualified herself in the eyes of the superdelegates as well as among Obama supporters. Let her return to the Senate and concentrate on her most difficult challenge -- not getting the party's presidential nomination, but getting re-nominated by disillusioned New York Dems.

BOTTOM LINE: NEITHER OBAMA NOR HILLARY CAN BEAT MCCAIN OR ANYONE ELSE THE GOP MIGHT RUN

Obama's inexperience cannot be overcome by the brilliance of his campaign, nor can doubts about his associations be overcome by dismissing the skeptics as practitioners of the old politics he wants to change.

And Hillary's polarizing stances, her attacks on party elders as "elitists" and her rebuke of Moveon.org (founded to save her husband's career) make her not just unelectable, but unnominateable, if there is such a word. Then there's her problem with telling the truth...

WHERE ARE GORE'S GUTS?

All this was totally predictable, and Al Gore should have thrown his hat into the ring months ago. So the only way the party can be rescued is if Obama goes along with it as his only option.

PA DEMS: HELP OBAMA DO THE RIGHT THING BY VOTING FOR HILLARY... YES THAT'S WHAT I SAID.

That's why Scrivener, after much thought, may hold his nose and vote for Hillary in the PA primary. A Hillary victory might help convince Obama to toss the lateral to Gore now, before more damage is done to the party. A Hillary win by 5-10 points would send the message. But let's hope against a blowout, which might convince the naive that she can win the general, which she cannot.

Posted by: scrivener | April 19, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"If Hillary wins PA by a significant margin, Obama must throw his delegates to Gore in order to checkmate Hillary and preserve his political capital for a possible run as Gore's VP"

Gimme a frickin break. The guy has a 164 pledged delegate lead, a 140 total deleagte lead (that still is expanding b the day, one more Super from Nebraska yesterday...), he's won more states, more popular votes (even with FL and MI), and is going to win the nomination (Hillary would need to win PA with nearly 70% of the vote to make a serious dent in the delegate total and by at least 300,000 raw votes to cut into the popular vote lead, neither of which is going to happen, and all this assumes NC will at least be close, which it won't). He still leads McCain in most national polls, and that's before the Dems have come bac together after this is settled. To say he should now get out and throw his support to GOre in exchange for being VP is just dumb, sorry but there's no other word out there for it.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | April 19, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

After posting several minutes ago, I decided to read all the posts.

Having just read numerous illiterate posts in a debate about the movie "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," on a different Web site, I figured I would be reading a bunch of angry, semi-literate posts.

Instead, I was delighted at the quality of the posts. Almost all were intelligent. One stands out. The post by hheyck at 1:39 pm on April 19. It had SEVERAL intelligent comments about important issues. I learned from reading this post. Assuming he or she was factually correct, it was FAR more intelligent than most of the stuff I read in newspapers.

One more thing. And this is addressed to Chris Cillizza. I think you reporters need to explore WHY Gibson and Stephanopoulos behaved the way they did.

I am 100 PERCENT SURE that it has to do with who they talk to each day. I live in Chicago. George S. has a regular weekly segment on the (ABC) radio show of Don Wade -- a Limbaughite who pretended for a decade that his on-air partner (who never used a last name) was a fiery liberal he detested and didn't associate with off the air when in real life she was his conservative wife. The same station used a Gibson statement comparing the upcoming debate to a fistfight to promote the debate this week.

My guess is that Gibson and George S. spend equal amounts of time each week promoting their shows on ABC radio stations in New York, LA, Miami, Atlanta, and on and on and on. My guess is that most if not all of the radio hosts who interview them are ULTRACONSERVATIVE like Wade and Sean Hannity, whom I understand did interview George S. the day before the debate.

If you spent hours EACH WEEK for YEARS talking to these kind of people, wouldn't you have a conservative sensibility, the kind of contempt for real issues and the fondness for character assassination that Gibson and George S. displayed on April 16?

I think you would. Thank you.

ZWrite

Posted by: ZWrite | April 19, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Obama's people are mad b/c he didn't handle the questions as well as he could (should?) have. He should have expected these kinds of questions after getting a pass for so long on the kinds of issues that Clinton's been dogged on. The flag pin may not be much of an issue, but Jeremiah Wright is a big one.

I also believe, however, the someone who worked in the Clinton White House simply should not be permitted to be co-moderator of a debate of this magnitude. This is practically the definition of conflict of interest.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I agree with most of the comments as to what a "Debate" should or should not be about. One thing I have stressed from early on is how The Media is almost 100% in favor of Obama. The question about who these folks have been associated with and who have been supportive of them is very important. The past 20 or 30 years clearly shows Obama has chosen these folks [Rezko and Rev. Wright as among his closest advisers and friends. From reports available, these two people are not what this country is about, [Allegedly] one is a crook and the other Hates almost everything America is all about.

Posted by: lylepink | April 19, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

OOOOPS...

In my last post it was written that "NEITHER OBAMA NOR GORE CAN BEAT MCCAIN..."

What I meant to state was that "neither Obama nor HILLARY can beat McCain."

Either I made a typo or my internet connection is subject to remote computing alterations (in this environment, anything's possible!)

Posted by: scrivener | April 19, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Gibson and Stephanopoulos crossed the line by using 1/2 of the debaut on personal/ guilt-by-association/ trivial questions.

Yes, Gibson and Stephanopoulos crossed the line by asking Obama these questions without asking Clinton an equal amount of personal/ guilt-by-association/ trivial questions.

Treating this debate as some kind of balance with perceived "mistreatment" of Clinton in previous debates is a red herring. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and the measure of what is an "important" question has changed.

One reason the "debate over the debate" is a story at all is in part because Obama failed to belittle it *during* the debate and elevate himself above it. After 20 minutes or so, couldn't Obama have said, "Charlie, George -- don't you think the voters are more concerned about the Economy, George Bush's war in Iraq, and Health Care than these personal, trivial, and guilt-by-association questions?"

.

Posted by: egc52556 | April 19, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Stephanopoulos was correct when he stated that there are no major policy differences between Obama and Clinton, which is why both would be a great President. The one issue where there IS a difference is health care and that has been discussed thoroughly and interestingly enough most people still think Obama DOES have a universal plan, which just goes to show you that the public is NOT as interested or demanding of policy as the Obama folks would lead the media to believe. Obama needs to weather these questions as Clinton has, and if he does as it looks like he will, I will support him. But this righteous indignation, especially from the media, has to stop. It is the height of hypocrisy and not the role of a free press.

Posted by: Bob | April 19, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

BLAME THE MESSENGER -- ONLY TO A POINT -- AND HOPE OBAMA GETS THE MESSAGE

The problem with the debate: Priorities and tone.

Spending 45 minutes grilling Obama on trivialities such as flag pins confirmed the "gotcha!" intent. Tough questions about Obama's beliefs and associates are appropriate, but surely such questions would have been woven into a forum that also covered such pressing issues as the economy, the pace of troop withdrawals, and -- a topic that would have been befitting given the Phila. setting -- the constitutionality of laws passed since 2000 and the question of whether there will be a review of the legality of administration actions and directives.

All that said, to blame ABC for Obama's weak rejoinders is just making excuses. The questioning previewed what's to come from the GOP attack machine, and Obama failed to meet the test. He has yet to muster the ammunition with which to mount an effective defense against the coming onslaught. Only those who've been smitten by the dream can believe that Obama's "that's the old politics" response will suffice.

OBAMA MUST THROW A LATERAL TO AL GORE

If Hillary wins PA by a significant margin, Obama must throw his delegates to Gore in order to checkmate Hillary and preserve his political capital for a possible run as Gore's VP. He'll be the kingmaker, the peacemaker, and he'll be on the ticket to ensure that his supporters come aboard.

Hillary, by her divisive and self-serving actions and statements, already has disqualified herself in the eyes of the superdelegates as well as among Obama supporters. Let her return to the Senate and concentrate on her most difficult challenge -- not getting the party's presidential nomination, but getting re-nominated by disillusioned New York Dems.

BOTTOM LINE: NEITHER OBAMA NOR GORE CAN BEAT MCCAIN OR ANYONE ELSE

Obama's inexperience cannot be overcome by the brilliance of his campaign, nor can doubts about his associations be overcome by dismissing the skeptics as practitioners of the old politics he wants to change.

And Hillary's polarizing stances, her attacks on party elders as "elitists" and her rebuke of Moveon.org (founded to save her husband's career) make her not just unelectable, but unnominateable, if there is such a word. Then there's her problem with telling the truth...

WHERE ARE GORE'S GUTS?

All this was totally predictable, and Al Gore should have thrown his hat into the ring months ago. So the only way the party can be rescued is if Obama goes along with it as his only option.

PA DEMS: HELP OBAMA DO THE RIGHT THING BY VOTING FOR HILLARY... YES THAT'S WHAT I SAID.

That's why Scrivener, after much thought, may hold his nose and vote for Hillary in the PA primary. A Hillary victory might help convince Obama to toss the lateral to Gore now, before more damage is done to the party. A Hillary win by 5-10 points would send the message. But let's hope against a blowout, which might convince the naive that she can win the general, which she cannot.

Posted by: scrivener | April 19, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

This was NOT a close call.

Pretend you're someone from another nation who knew nothing about either candidate. You flip on the TV and for an hour hear questions about a flag pin, the comments of another candidate's pastor, the patriotism of that pastor, verbal flubs, a story that turned out to be false, and whether one candidate was friends with a professor who was involved in a terrorist group 40 years ago but was never convicted of anything.

You would either think the USA is the greatest place in the world to live because it has no real problems or its citizens are the dumbest for being interested in this nonsense. Or both.

The candidates could have been Cinderella and Pinocchio. It doesn't matter. Anyone who thinks these questions were, in Stephanopolous' words, "appropriate," is either extremely politically biased or dumb or doesn't care about this nation's multitude of problems. Or all three.

I fell asleep before the issues questions came up. Seriously.

ZWrite

Posted by: ZWrite | April 19, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The biggest advertiser on the Sunday talk show we'll all be boycotting is a pharmaceutical company pushing a male incontinence drug (that says something about their demographics). Instead of debating the so-called debate, let's talk about alternative ways of controlling male incontinence. That way, we can boycott the advertisers as well, and show the world what Gandhi taught us about salt and empire.

Posted by: steve clark | April 19, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

My evening started when I found out the debate was not being broadcast live on the west coast. Thank you ABC. Or maybe THANK YOU ABC!! I was forced to go into the blogs to follow it. I was so disgusted that I didn't bother to watch it later. There are legitimate issues and there are petty issues and there are stupid issues. (Who is more patriotic -- what kind of a question is that?? Flag pins??). There was also the issue of balance. Lord knows, there were plenty of comparable "negative" questions that could have been asked of Hillary -- as I recall, she got one. Then there was the issue of "apparent" favoritism and "perceived" conflict of interest by one of the moderators who worked for the Clintons. I am not a big network person anyway -- have been into cable news for years. ABC had an opportunity to present an "event" that could have provided substance to the overall debate in this election. They chose not to for the sake of "ratings". How many of those viewers tuned in and then tuned out? Based on the 16,000+ comments they got on-line, I'd say a lot. Just saying...

Posted by: Martha | April 19, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Worst. Moderators. Ever.

Stephanopolous, Gibson and ABC News owe the American public a sincere apology for wasting our time and trivializing the democratic process.

It wasn't a debate; it was a sham.

Posted by: rita forte | April 19, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

First, where is the evidence that those complaining about the debate are Obama supporters? I'm sure that Obama supporters did think the debate was biased, but is it solely, or even, primarily them?
Second, is the position of those defending the debate that the audience is biased - so the debate was fine, it's just the viewers that are wrong?
Third, Stephanopulous and Gibson made the story about them. As journalists, that is a major problem.
Fourth, it's legitimate to argue that these political side-stories are in the news, so they should be asked about, but was the questioning in this realm balanced? Was Hillary asked about her husband's conflicts of interest or Mark Penn & CAFTA? Was Hillary asked the Monica question that Chelsea has gotten so often? A review of the first hour will show that the bulk of the political questions were directed at Obama. Of course, this meant that when they got to policy, Hillary had to be given more time than Obama because they wanted to "keep things even".
Fifth, look at all of the very important issues that weren't even discussed. Much of the uproar was about priorities. Where was the discussion of education, infrastructure, health care, the mortgage crisis, et cetera.
Sixth, with all of the debate about the debate, why hasn't the ABC ombudsmen reviewed it and passed judgment?

Posted by: vshawnt | April 19, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Stephanopoulos response to his performance:
"We asked tough but appropriate questions."

"Appropriate" questions for who, Mr. Stephanopoulos, the ultra-right Hannity and Limbaugh audience?

Clearly, the national outrage against you and Mr. Gibson is evidences that your questions were not "appropriate" for intelligent, politically moderate Americans--who by far make up the majority of the population. There is an estimated 230 million adults in the United States--only a fraction who identify themselves with the ultra-conservative right. The national outcry against your handling of the "debate" stems from your playing to a small niche audience.

Your Hannity-style gossip-topics interview questions do not meet the standards for a national political debate. Rather, your style mimics the silly, "incendiary" talk-show host genre. The vast majority of Americans are not fans of this genre because it is not objective, accurate, or rational. Consequently, Mr. Stephanopoulos, your approach insulted millions of Americans.

Now you attempt to defend yourself by stating your questions were both "strong" and "appropriate" only fuels the fury. How insulting you are to the American people.

Really, Mr. Stephanopoulos, the American people know there is not correlation between Sen. Obama donning a cheap flag lapel pin and the state of the economy. So your questions on this gossip-topic were inappropriate, irrelevant, and illogical.

The America people know there is no correlation between Sen. Obama's relationship with his church and Rev. Wright and the housing market crisis. So your questions on this gossip-topic were inappropriate, irrelevant, and illogical.

The American people know there is no correlation between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton's acquaintance with former members of the defunct Weathermen Underground and the growing resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan's bilking the US taxpayer out of hundreds of millions of dollars on the pretense Musharraf's army is fighting Al-Qaeda. So your questions on this gossip-topic were inappropriate, irrelevant, and illogical.

The American people know there is no correlation between Sen. Clinton's description of her Bosnia trip and the cost and availability of heathcare insurance. So your questions on this gossip-topic were inappropriate, irrelevant, and illogical.


Posted by: Catherine Houston TX | April 19, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

In regard to personal/process questions, this debate frankly seemed no different than prior debates except for the undeniable difference that Senator Obama received more tough questions than did Senator Clinton. It is disingenuous for Obama or his supporters (both in and outside the media) to cry foul when there was no such outcry in response to earlier debates that targeted Clinton. Senator Obama is simply the frontrunner now. He seems personally and deeply affronted to be subjected to such scrutiny -- witness his begging off after eight questions at his Rezko-related press avail -- whereas Senator Clinton is rather used to it. It's amusing to see the outcry from members of the press who are ostensibly objective. I think the Politico piece nailed it exactly.

Posted by: ezr | April 19, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Boycott ABC this Sunday and every Sunday. Watching network Sunday political talk shows is bad for our health. Let's all sip a latte and take a jog instead.
I'm not sure Gibson had a reputation to ruin, but Stephanopoulos sure ruined his.
They need us more than we need them.

Posted by: steve clark | April 19, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

From my standpoint, one telling exchange that revealed the so-called "moderators'" tilt towards Clinton was the question about Bosnia.

She said words like "I said something I knew not to be the case," i.e., "I lied." Then she tried to toss it off by saying, "I need to get more sleep," suggesting that fatigue was the reason. Not ONE follow-up question, such as, "If you knew it wasn't true, why did you say it four times?" "How does fatigue explain the repetitions of it as different times of the day, including one in the morning?" NOT ONE follow-up.

Obama, on the other hand, was doggedly pursued on every question he was asked.

Another revealing moment was the question to HRC, after Obama had been pummeled non-stop for a half-hour, "do you want equal time?"

So, yes, this was one-sided and, IMHO, far exceeded the worst grilling of Hillary, which I think was the Cleveland debate when Russert went after her.

As for the post-debate spin, how rich is it for Bill to say HRC never whined? They even had an ad called "pile on," for chrissake. Then there was her comment in Cleveland about always getting the first question and giving Obama a pillow. Give me a break.

Posted by: jac13 | April 19, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The first 50 minutes were a disgrace, not because Obama was asked tough questions but because he was asked stupid ones. The last two presidential campaigns have focused on the trivial thanks to the media obsession with trivia and it's own lack of understanding of the major issues, as was revealed by Charlie Gibson's numerous false premise questions. When a campaign focuses on the trivial, you get a trivial person as the president, which is what we did in 2000 and 2004. W. is good at handling trivial matters, but he is a person of no depth or substance and events soon revealed his inability to cope with anything of importance. Hence, his administration has been characterized by incompetence, petulance, and simplistic ideology.

Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are serious people with great talents; they--and we, the public--are done a great disservice when the media focuses on the trivial. The best examples of this were the lapel flag question (terminally stupid, especially since neither Clinton nor McCain wears one either), the ridiculous "do you think Wright loves his country as much as you do" question, and the Bill Ayres question, since that question presumes the legitimacy of the age-old McCarthyist tactic of implying guilt by association. Saying that the Republicans will indulge in irresponsible and baseless attacks does not mean that the media should validate such attacks as legitimate questions by making them themselves. (Note that this is quite different from asking questions that get at the character and values of the candidates, which is legitimate and necessary. (Better questions that get to character might be, what, to you, makes a person a patriot? Give some examples of true patriotism. What kind of dissent is acceptable in a time of war? Is torture ever acceptable in the name of national defense? How does one best deal with a political adversary on a crucial issue: do you fight to win no matter what, do you try to compromise to get something done, or is there a third alternative?

The second thing that was awful about the debate was the number of false premises that were built in to the questions--false premises that the Republicans have been trying to sell as truth but that have been refuted repeatedly by people who bother to find out actual facts. Examples: Gibson mischaracterized the changes in revenue that come with capital gains tax cuts: the revenues go up FOR A TIME because of short-term profit-taking by people who want to take advantage of the cut by selling stock right now instead or a year or two from now. After 2-3 years, that blip dissolves. Even more importantly, the overall amount of revenue brought in by this tax (as with most taxes) is far more dependent on the strength of the economy than it is on relatively small changes in rates. This is especially true for the capital gains tax. There are good reasons to be for or against raising the capital gains tax back to 20 or 28%, but assuming that raising the rate will cut receipts is just stupid (to me the best argument for raising them is fairness: as Obama pointed out, it doesn't seem quite right for a billionaire hedge-fund manager to pay a lower tax rate on his chief source of income than does his typist).

Also, Gibson asked multiple questions about "middle-class" income tax cuts, questions that presumed that working men and women, "teachers and firemen" make over 100K. On what planet is that true? Another example: the question on responses to Iran began with the assertion that Iran is pursuing the construction of nuclear weapons, when our own NIE says quite flatly that they are not. That's a pretty big false premise.

A last point, not about Gibson and Stephanopolous but about the media in general, is that the media has covered Obama's "bitter" and "cling" comment as if that statement reflected his true opinion of working-class small town voters, asking not "Is that what he meant?" but "is he right?" This is a serious flaw in coverage, since Obama has repeatedly said that his true position (based on hundred of other speeches and, more importantly, his work as a community organizer) is NOT the Thomas Frank "What's the Matter with Kansas" argument. In fact, Obama consistently has argued AGAINST the Frank argument, which presumes that such people have been voting against their own economic self-interest because they've been duped or distracted by less important "wedge" issues. Obama has been very consistent in his career in arguing that, for people in declining industrial towns, there's not been much economic advantage in voting Democrat vs Republican, because things have gotten worse under both kinds of administration. That is, his argument is a flat rejection of the basic premise of the Frank argument. (For other people, the advantages of Democratic vs. Republican administrations are clear, as GDP growth is higher, unemployment rates are lower, inflation rates are lower, and growth in federal spending are lower under Democratic administrations (on average) than under Republican ones. In other words, if you want a stronger economy, vote for a Democrat, it's almost always better for the economy. The media never notes this, but it's incontrovertible. It's also true that Democratic control of Congress is better for the economy on all the above issues as well.

Also, Obama has argued repeatedly that "values" votes on "wedge" issues are NOT distractions from real issues. Rather, he has said time and again that they are real issues because they are connected to those things that give meaning to life beyond a paycheck--faith, family, tradition. The proper thing for a journalist to do is to say, "Obama says this statement is a gaffe and doesn't reflect his real views. Ok, is that true or was this a case when a politician accidentally let us see his real views? Let's look at his history and see whether this is a mis-statement or whether it is what the right-wing claims, "the mask slipping" and revealing his true feelings." That's the responsible question to ask. It's irresponsible (and downright lazy) to assume the gaffe reflected his real views without checking to see if it did or not.

All that said, Obama did not perform as well as I would have hoped in that debate, because the only way to succeed when asked such stupid or falsely premised questions is to challenge the questions AND then to point out what the real questions ought to be. He did some of the former but not enough of the latter.

Posted by: hheyck | April 19, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

While the Obama Kool Aid drinkers like corinthian 12:54 PM all want to pooh-pooh Barack Obama's 20 year love affair with a Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan desciple Jerimiah Wright, who preached the same Farrakhan hate-whitey and hate-America line, I bet they'd be the first to hit the ceiling with outrage if Hillary Clinton or John McCain had had a 20 year love affair with a KKK or American-Nazi leader. Now however because Barack Obama is black, we're supposed to forget about it and move on.

Posted by: madhatter | April 19, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Hillary could steal the old Folger's coffee slogan--"rich, but never bitter"--except it would raise questions about how the Clintons have become so rich in such a short period of time.

Posted by: martin edwin andersen | April 19, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

There was plenty of coverage on the so-called issues - it just didn't dominate the entire 90 minutes. And most if not all issues have been covered in the previous 20+ debates. I don't need to hear more. For the gluttons, you can go the candidates' website and find out for yourself in far greater detail.

You also know what the candidates say during debates is just political posturing (remember Obama's person running to the Canadians about Nafta?). So I applaud ABC for asking the questions they asked - questions that have been on my mind for a while. What the debates should do at this point is to allow the public to see how the candidates function under pressure. Can they give a coherent and convincing answer? For Obama, the answer is a resounding no. It is all the more surprising because these issues have been brewing for months. So it was poor preparation on his part. He needs to spend some more time in the Senate, learn a few things or two before running. He is not ready for prime time.

The Obamaites will be singing a different tune if the tough questions had been directed at Clinton instead. I didn't see them coming to her defense before when she was getting the tough ones. She has to finally confront the moderators herself at the debate before anyone paid attention. Why didn't Obama do that yesterday if he thinks it was unfair? If he can't stand up for himself why should we think he would stand up for the country?

If the earlier networks running the debates had done their jobs to vet Obama and had been unbiased, we would not be in the present state of quandary - with a weak, inexperienced candidate with a lot to hide, stuck down our throats.

Posted by: alee21 | April 19, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Hillary's supporters are correct that Obama got the sort of treatment that is usually directed at her, but that is no excuse for Stephanopoulos' and Gibson's terrible choice of questions. Even in the rare occasions when they asked substantive questions, they still behaved like idiots. Gibson's instance that reductions in capital gains tax rates lead to increased revenue is a particularly striking example of this idiocy. If ABC News wants to retain some credibility, they should fire him over this.

Posted by: Dave | April 19, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Chris, you are off about the fundamental problem with the debate. The problem is not that Obama was clearly in the crosshairs (which he was), the problem is that the first half of the debate did not have a single issue question.

Charlie Gibson actually said in the debate that the economy was the #1 issue on the minds of voters. If this is true then why was it the 16th or so question?

Instead the first question was asking the candidates to pledge to be Pres and VP???? This was a gotcha for both candidates while being a slight advantage to Clinton. Clinton benefits from the thoughts that Obama might be her running mate. Obama, on the other hand, does not get that similar benefit. We all know she will never be #2 on any ticket.

So this question is a perfect example of a terrible debate question. We all knew neither would commit before they answered. But the question could only have helped Hillary and hurt Obama potentially. Though the way it played out it accomplished nothing.

Could they not have at least interspersed the questions throughout the debate? #1 - Economy, #2 - Iraq, #3 gotcha question, #4 gotcha question to other candidate, #5 gas prices, #6 gotcha question, #7 gotcha question, etc. It still would have been a bad debate as nothing useful came from it... but at least it wouldn't have been so obviously bad. They could have at least masked their poor journalism somewhat.


And finally, why do we call these things debates? Almost nothing is debated. Instead these things have become a tough question answering session for each candidate. A debate would imply there is actually discussion on what is the best way to do something or to fix some problem. Can't we leave the hard hitting questions for interviews done with journalists and use debates to actually debate issues? If we want a joint hard hitting question session then call it such, don't disguise it as a "debate".

Posted by: Ben | April 19, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

we all need to boycott ABC this Sunday, show them that we won't let this garbage talk continue.

Posted by: Bob | April 19, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

This debate was comparable to the October 30th debate when everybody on stage and the moderators piled on Clinton.

This time they all piled on Obama.

She actually performed much better under the scrutiny.

She made one mistake regarding immigrant driver's licenses in two hours.

He looked like a wounded deer in the headlights for most of the night.

Posted by: Johnson | April 19, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

This would have been an outrage no matter who the questions were directed at. While I agree the media has been unfair to Clinton (nobody questioned Mike Gravel on his ability to lead based on gender...), they were never this superficial. "Do you hate America because you don't wear a flag pin at all times?" "Does your pastor hate America?" "Does your pastor wear a flag pin?" It may seem like a brush-off to say those questions are distractions, but that's what they are. Those "issues" have no bearing what so ever on what Obama would do or how he would be as president. He is trying to change politics as usual, but it looks like politics as usual won't go away quietly

Posted by: corinthian | April 19, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

It's about time that Barack Obama was asked some tough questions rather than the usual liberal 'how's the weather', 'how do you you feel today', and did you have a good night sleep'-type questions. What the Obama supporting cult members now whining about the George S. and Charlie G. questions don't like is that Obama was treated like a presidential candidate rather than Obama the god who has the politically correct skin color.

Posted by: madhatter | April 19, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The difference between this debate and the previous ones wasn't who got asked the most questions. It was what kind of questions were asked. They were ridiculous, tabloid questions. The Obama camp is more upset than the Clinton camp mainly because he got asked the vast majority of them. Obama in the debate voiced the exact frustration that hundreds of thousands have voiced in "comment" sections just like this one. The mainstream media is participating in the exact same kind of distractions that the politicians are. It's repugnant.

Speaking of tabloid journalism, Chris I wonder are you going to discuss this story on Huffpost about a tape from a Clinton fundraiser where she goes after MoveOn and other "activist" elements of the democratic party? Odd that she would want "every vote to count" and then complain when a certain type of voter comes out in large numbers against her...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/celeste-fremon/clinton-slams-democratic_b_97484.html

Posted by: oscars2212 | April 19, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

May we please stop calling these affairs "debates". They are no such things.

If we must be subjected to these question and answer sessions then let's have local voters ask the questions, rather than elite national media types who have no more idea of what's on the minds of the local voters.

By the way neither Gibson nor Stephanopoulos were wearing the flag lapel pins while lecturing Obama of the importance of such.

Posted by: Chris Brown | April 19, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

It is correct to criticize the nature of the debate. What you are seeing now is America exercising its backbone and rejecting these sort of distraction politics that we've become used to. The debate, as it turns out, was an enormous victory for Obama. Just as another said, the questions played right into his wheel house, and while Clinton went lower and lower, he went higher and higher.

Sure, Clinton got rough treatment early in the campaign (as the PRESUMPTIVE nominee lest we forget). But, how personal was the rough treatment? How many questions did she have to answer about Monica Lewinsky? Vince Foster? Cattle futures? "Screw 'em"? Wal-Mart? Hillary's questions tended to focus on the Iraq vote, her incoherent answer to the Spitzer immigrant bill, and so forth. I'm not sure how frequently she got asked questions on the level of "does Wright love America as much as you?" or anything involving a LAPEL PIN. If she did, it didn't get the intense media attention that anything close to Obama has received.

Those who think that Obama has gotten a fair pass (did you forget the Wright controversy and how much that blew up?) are making a critical and shortsighted assumption. They are equating Clinton's baggage with Obama's baggage, and an objective and SERIOUS look at their baggage shows that Clinton has far more and far more serious baggage than Obama has. Really, the worst stuff associated with Obama involves the words and actions of other people who have debatably attenuated connections to him. Clinton has done tons of things herself that deserve serious scrutiny and attention.

This whole Republican general election "boogeyman" argument is ridiculous as well. Clinton is awfully good at attack and distract politics lest we forget, and the Republicans would have far more ammunition on a Clinton candidacy than an Obama candidacy. Even if you don't accept that, you must accept the fact that they'll find a way to viciously attack whomever their opponent is. Sure Clinton has experience getting attacked, but what do you think Obama has been acquiring over this campaign season? Experience with getting attacked! He handled the Wright controversy extremely well, and even though it's been, I think, a couple months since the announcement of the "kitchen sink" strategy, Obama has continued to do very well. He'll do remarkably well in the general too.

Obama is going to win or narrowly lose PA on Tuesday and all you folks in the media who have bought Clinton's "Obama's poor debate performance" spin and narrative will be utterly shocked. Real-life Americans (the ones who don't live in the D.C area...) are really getting sick of the gotcha distraction politics and it came to a cresendo on Wednesday. You'll see. We are smarter and more thoughtful than you guys in the media think. We know that America is facing serious issues and the reason that we've gotten to such a low point in our country, in large part, is because of our previous focus on the absurd and irrelevant. We're learning from our mistakes.

holton.wordpress.com

Posted by: nfholton | April 19, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

The real test is this: If Senator Clinton had been the candidate getting the same type and same number of questions that Senator Obama got, would this debate have still been a debacle?

The answer is yes...it was, simply, tabloid journalism. And I don't think there is any way to excuse it.

I will admit that Hillary, on occasion, has been grilled a bit harder than Obama in a couple of previous debates, but the tough questions were usually on a tad bit more substantive issues and did not consume a large amount of time. Nothing in the earlier debates comes even close to what ABC gave us this week. I'm not sure the first 45 minutes even qualified as a debate...more like a tabloid interview.

And if Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolis want to claim that they made a conscious choice to spend the first half on personal issues because they thought the American people needed to know, their choice of questions was poorly researched to say the least. Did they believe that it was more important to find out why Obama didn't wear a flag pin than it was to ask about Clinton and Mark Penn's ties to Columbia?

The major problem is that many of us come to the main stream media with trust...we expect responsible journalism. And to contend that what we were given last Wednesday night was indeed "responsible journalism" undermines the faith that the American people have entrusted in those who bring us our news.

Posted by: Elizabeth | April 19, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Karl Rove was the big winner. His Politics About Nothing lives on. If you aren't going to help the working man, tell him that the other condescending guy wants to take away his gun. Republicans show respect for all the things not under siege - his guns, his religion, his marriage, his patriotism - and hope no one homes in on jobs, foreclosures or health care.

http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=2170


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Posted by: Frank, Austin | April 19, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

They certainly crossed the line between journalistic competence and showbiz hucksterism.

Regardless of the target (and there shouldn't be a target), the reliance on guilt by association and "Have you stopped beating your wife" question structure is the sort of thing one expects from Fox, but not from a responsible news organization.

I don't think it was necessarily intended to benefit or harm any candidate; it was all about showing off, and it was executed poorly.

Posted by: FlownOver | April 19, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Obama's character IS the issue right now - I think that is one thing the entire country can agree on.

We already know that Hillary is a lying scumbag who is nasty, her people are nasty and the whole thing should have been put aside a long time ago.

If Hillary was actually a nice person, she would be way ahead right now.

Posted by: Words of Wisdom | April 19, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I was appalled at the tabloid nature of the questions. It WAS a terrible debate, because so much time was wasted on insignificant things or grandstanding (Gibson setting fiscal policy by demanding a no taxes pledge?)
I wish the candidates themselves would hold the questioners accountable. This wasn't the first bad debate - remember the Fox debate where the (many) candidates were asked hypotheticals about military actions and the fall of Iraq to Muslim extremists? It was all about driving up ratings.
We need the broadcasters who use our airwaves to pay more attention to their duty to inform us and play watchdog over the government.

Posted by: john | April 19, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Daily Kos did a blog which showed that Obama got 10 questions about his personal gaffs and controversies, Hillary got 2!!!!

If your gonna talk about contreversty, why not talk about Bill Clinton's foreign sponsors? The Clinton charitable fund that has only handed out $10% of its $50M? Mark Penn? Clinton's screw em comment.

It was not only dissappointing that they didn't talk about the issue. It was disguisting that Obama was so blatanly singled out by moderator with clear ties to the Clintons!!

Posted by: Dominic | April 19, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Even some of the "substantive" questions were of the gotcha type. Tax pledges are always a good way to get headlines, but don't reveal much. Gibson's accusingly-worded question on the capital gains tax was superficial and showed an ignorance of the subject matter (Of course cap gains revenues increase after a cut in the rate. With a lower rate about to take effect or a bill pending with a lower rate, wouldn't you wait to sell your stock until it went into effect? And, yes, 100 million people own stock, but the vast majority own them in IRAs & 401k's where cap gains don't apply.) Overall, I thought there was some anti-Obama bias, but most of the questions were just silly.

Posted by: LR | April 19, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Chris,you all, ABC, CNN, FOX, etc., etc., and WaPo, NYT, etc. etc., are starting to make Rush L. look respectable. You guy's and gal,s peddle trash.

Posted by: frluke | April 19, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Wright was a U.S. Marine and a Navy medic. What've Stephanopolus or Words of Wisdom / SVReader done to show love for America?

Posted by: aleks | April 19, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

The ABC moderators did cross the line. The question "Does Rev. Wright love America more than you do?" could not be more irrelevant to the issues or to the canditates. Stephanopoulos was questioning the patriotism of a man that's not even in the race! Come on. They can do better.

(forgot to post my user name)

Posted by: Schuy2 | April 19, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The ABC moderators did cross the line. The question "Does Rev. Wright love America more than you do?" could not be more irrelevant to the issues or to the canditates. Stephanopoulos was questioning the patriotism of a man that's not even in the race! Come on. They can do better.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The debate was definitely stupid and petty and a ridiculous indictment of the media abdicating its traditional role for its new role as part of the entertainment industry, but...

...I really don't agree with the conventional wisdom analysis that says this was bad for Obama. Clinton performs well in policy discussion, but Obama was right in his element in the first half.

While stupid question after stupid question came up - including the Bosnia question for Clinton - Obama rose above it every time, which was the perfect opportunity to stand out by pushing the very thesis of his campaign, that this country needs a new kind of politics that puts substance over political distraction in order to actually get things done.

So time and again Clinton tried to pile on with obviously manufactured outrage, while Obama never took the bait. And while the media listens to the Clinton spin that he looked flustered and unsure of himself under the withering questioning, the viewing public watched as he pointed out how the questions were stupid distractions and said to themselves, "he's right!"

I think, like this debate, any time from now till November that Obama gets an opportunity to point out the distracting political games - from Clinton, the media, or the republicans - it plays right into his strong suit. Each time, for every voter the distractions lose him, three independent voters will come to his side.

Posted by: Artie | April 19, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Oh, come on. I expected a few questions about all the dirt, to get it out of the way. But when question after question went the same way, I sat her stunned that nothing of substance was being discussed and that most of the dirt was aimed at Obama. Shocking.

Posted by: Patricia | April 19, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm an Obama supporter, and I was horrified by the questions in the debate. I don't care that the questions were mostly directed at Obama, I cared more that they were just so trivial.

This may have been the final debate between these two Senators, and it was just a bunch of tabloid journalism. We were all - Hillary and Obama supporters alike - denied a substantive debate.

Posted by: Alex | April 19, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

CC-ask yourself "is your pastor as patriotic as you". Is that reasonable question?

I would have turned around and asked "George are you as patriotic as Charlie" .

To me nobody holds these pundits accountable and thats why American people don't have health care because these guys frame the issue in favour of Republicans.


Posted by: Najam | April 19, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

There's something that seems really clear to me -- but not mentioned much at all.

The mammoth amount of criticism toward ABC regarding the debate is really indicative of a cultural paradigm shift.

During the 80s and 90s, the voice of the Right (and not always the far one) broke through the damn -- and was fueled and promoted in large part by talk radio hosts such as Limbaugh. Folks were expressing their frustration with the poliicies of the 60s and 70s.

What is happening now is that the collective voice of the Left-of-center (contrary to what pundits say, it is not solely the far left) is finally breaking through the walls (built by the Right) --and are only now being heard. The Internet is the powerful medium of choice this time. Folks are now expressing exasperation with the policies of the 80s and 90s. We're swinging from Right to Left -- but not to the far left. To think that is a mistake.

My high school Social Science teacher said that politics trends in waves of 30 years. We're now experiencing one. The last time was the election of 1980.

If you take Obama out of the picture and replace him with any other candidate-of-change, and pit him against Clinton, who represents the past (fair or not -- she does), I bet you'd see the same thing.

The outcry about the debate is just and indicator of this cultural paradigm shift, and should not be taken as a fluke.

This is not the 2004 Kerry campaign.

Posted by: scj | April 19, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Up until the last debate the press has been playing softball with Obama and Death Match with Hillary Clinton. The whiners in the press corp who are complaining about ABC's questions to Obama, but never raised a peep about the tough treatment Hillary Clinton received, should take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are journalists or advocates.

Posted by: Patrick | April 19, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

The first 45 min were just sad. I don't care about Clinton's bonsia gaff, or if Obama wears a flag pin on his lapel or about Reszko .

I want to know how they plan to pay for healthcare. I want to know how they plan to balance the budget. To fix the economy. It solve Iraq.

Posted by: Megaduck | April 19, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

True of False? Was Hillary Clinton Fired from Watergate Investigation for Unethical Misconduct and Then Lying About It?
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Did her boss in the Watergate investigation fire her, refuse to give her a letter of recommendation and said she was a liar who did highly unethical things?
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Does her boss say that she conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality, that she was an unethical and dishonest lawyer; that he should have reported her to the bar association for disciplinary action; that she wrote a fraudulent legal memorandum which if submitted to a judge would have gotten her disbarred; and that he could not recommend her for any subsequent position of public or private trust?
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Check it out for yourself at the websites below, what do you think?
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http://www.jzeifman.com/
http://www.aim.org/aim-column/hillarys-crocodile-tears-in-connecticut
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If it is not true, wouldn't the Clintons' have shut these sites down?
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Posted by: swuzy | April 19, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Obama's character and WHAT he has done with his life in Hyde Park IS an issue.


What are these people talking about?

They are on Planet O and nothing is getting them back on their spaceship to come back to Earth.


Nothing.

A picture is emerging of what Obama has been doing all these years in Hyde Park. All these Obamaniacs think that all Obama was doing was hanging out in housing projects, attempting to help the poor at every turn.

Is that true?


NO - Obama was hanging out with a wealthy real estate developer Reszko who is now on trial in Chicago. WHAT?

NO - Obama was hanging out at a "house in the neighborhood" of Ayers attempting to gain support for Obama's State Senate campaign - in fact the campaign was launched from Ayers' house.

WHAT?? Does this character Ayers have a little more influence within the Hyde Park democratic party groups than anyone might ahve thought ???


Obama appears to have moved up the ladder substantially by hanging out with Ayers -

Tony Reszko was a fundraiser for Obama - another guy "from the neighborhood."

You ask "from the neighborhood" - I think a more adequate description would be that Obama MOVED TO the neighborhood to be closer to these guys and the groups they hang out with.

Posted by: Words of Wisdom | April 19, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I was very unhappy with the first half of the debate, because none of it had anything to do with issues, policy and ideas. Voters are just starting to tune into the race, and it provided them with nothing but tabloid journalism.

I wonder how many changed the channel before the moderators bothered to ask real questions of the candidates? I don't see how Stephanopolis can defend it. If they are truly responsible journalists, they would have held off on the other stuff until the second half.

I turned it off, and went back after to read the transcript to see if anything of value was asked. But most people would not take the time.

Posted by: Ann | April 19, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The test of ABC's even-handedness will come, I think, when Stephanopoulos interviews John McCain on Sunday. Will he ask similar questions? There's certainly no shortage of possibilities, starting with McCain welcoming endorsements from Pastor John Hagee and former Secretary of State James ("F**k the Jews") Baker. A query or two about campaign manager Rick Davis's work on behalf of the autocratic Victor Yanukovych in Ukraine wouldn't be out of place either.

Posted by: Gene | April 19, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The love fest with all things Obama took a holiday on Wednesday, that is all. It is clear it is back on. Step up to the bar and have another glass of Kool Aide.

Posted by: patrick NYC | April 19, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I could not see a flag pin on Hillary during the debate, Does she wear them usually? Why was Obama singled out??

Posted by: T.Lynch | April 19, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

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