Debate Wrapup

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

The New York Times: “Clinton did not let an opportunity pass as she repeatedly challenged Mr. Obama on his record and views — assisted, as it turned out, by vigorous questioning by the two moderators from ABC News, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous. The result was arguably one of Mr. Obama’s weakest debate performances. He at times appeared annoyed as he sought to answer questions about his former pastor, his reluctance to wear an American flag pin on his lapel and his association in Chicago with former members of the Weather Underground, a radical group that carried out bombings in the 1960s that were intended to incite the overthrow of the government.” 

The Washington Post adds, "The encounter, particularly in the early stages, seemed more like a grilling of Obama on a Sunday-morning talk show than a debate between the two candidates. Obama fielded most of the questions calmly, although at times he appeared to choose his words with extreme care as he faced perhaps the toughest series of questions he has encountered since taking the lead in delegates in the nomination battle."

The Los Angeles Times: "With the moderators and Clinton raising assorted questions about Obama’s past for the first half of the debate, 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."

The Boston Globe: “Clinton, seeking momentum in the dwindling weeks of the primary campaign, accused Obama of associating with controversial figures, including his own former preacher. Though she called Obama a ‘good man’ and said, after some prodding, that he could win the White House, Clinton said he would have many liabilities in the fall campaign.”

Editor & Publisher:

Clinton-Obama Debate: ABC Decides Top Issues Facing Americans Are Gaffes, Flag Pins and ’60s Radicals

The Carpetbagger Report:

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen debates that were pretty bad. We’ve seen a few that were embarrassingly bad. But at least in this cycle, I’m not sure if we’ve seen anything quite as train-wreck, cover-your-eyes bad as the spectacle on ABC last night.

What may prove to be the last Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama wasn’t just awful on its face, it was hard not to watch wondering if moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were actually undermining the public discourse with their inanity. It marked a new low for the media freak-show. I was conflicted emotionally between anger at ABC for this travesty and pity for the network for having sunk so low.

It was evident very early on that we were in for a long night. The candidates, for some inexplicable reason, were given an opportunity to make opening statements — in previous debates, hosts generally want to get right into questions, not hear mini-speeches — which was followed by an immediate commercial break. Four minutes after getting started, it was time to hear a word from our sponsors.

When the returned, the first question pressed Clinton and Obama on whether they’d commit to taking the other as a running mate. The second was about the “bitter” flap. The third was about whether Clinton thought Obama was electable, and vice versa.

From there, in order, the topics were as follows: the Jeremiah Wright controversy, the Bosnia/sniper flap, lapel flag-pins, and William Ayers and the Weather Underground.

From Daily Kos:

In case you were wondering, as well as I can recollect, Gibson and Stephanopolus were too concerned with "bitter" and flag pins and superexcellentness of cutting the capital gains tax to ever get around asking Obama and Clinton questions about any of the following subjects:

The financial crisis
The collapse of housing values in the US and around the world
Health care
The declining value of the US Dollar
The decline of American manufacturing
The Supreme Court
The burgeoning world food crisis.    
Global warming
The attacks on organized labor and the working class
Terrorism and al Qaeda
Civil liberties and constraints on government surveillance