Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trivial Debate in Philadelphia

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 277

Debates between presidential candidates can be many things: a snoozefest of statistics and wonkisms, a firefight between candidates of diametrically opposed views, and even, on rare occasion, freakishly relevant and lucid discussions about things that really matter to people.

And then, there was last night's farce on ABC, which was an on-air tutorial by moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of how to sidetrack an opportunity for meaningful political discourse just days before a crucial primary into a spectacle of triviality and distraction.

The Los Angeles Times sums it up well:

"...issues received relatively short shrift. Not until 50 minutes in was a policy issue -- Iraq -- asked about by the moderators. More than an hour went by before a question was asked about what Stephanopoulos called 'the No. 1 issue on Americans' minds' -- the economy."

While discussions are afoot about the possibility of a debate in North Carolina, last night's debate in Philadelphia may turn out to be the last chance voters will have to evaluate Clinton and Obama side-by-side. It is a shame that opportunity was squandered by the event's moderators, who were so fixated on warmed over non-stories about both candidates that any possibility of worthwhile discussion was strangled before the first commercial break (of many).

To paraphrase a vintage bumper sticker: I miss Tim Russert. Heck, I even miss Wolf Blitzer.

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