ABC's Democratic Debate: HuffPost Bloggers Respond

ABC's Democratic Debate: HuffPost Bloggers Respond
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Jerry and Joe Long: What Passes For Debate:

Back in the days of our radio show, our standard name for the media was one taken from Jerry Lewis..."pimps and whores". After last night, it's obvious we were too kind.

Instead of sonorously intoning various articles of the Constitution when returning from an ad for bowel cleansing yogurt, perhaps Gibson and Stephanopoulos could have focused just one question on the administration that has been shredding it section by section.

Jeffrey Feldman: Et Tu, ABC?:

For months, now, there has been an effort to frame the Democratic front-runner not just as a bad candidate, but as a potential violent threat to the American public.

Unfortunately, she chose to add to the violent framing, further implying that Obama was somehow aligned with The Weather Underground and implying, however vaguely, that Bill Ayer's violent views were somehow shared by her Democratic opponent for the nomination. That moment--her response--was the low point in the entire political career of Hillary Clinton.

I don't blame news producers for doing what they think their job is, which is scoring bragworthy Nielsens. I don't blame political talking heads for being infatuated with the narratives that they themselves create and market. Blaming them would be like blaming babies for banging their spoons on their highchairs, or addicts for wanting their fix. But I do blame the candidates, the campaigns and the parties for being complicit with the corporate politainment circus.

The excuse from pundits stepping up to defend ABC is that, well, we've had 20 debates and we've gone over all the issues, and people don't want to hear it anymore. Oh really? I don't remember any debate where we talked seriously about when it is proper and not proper to deploy our military. Are we going to continue preemption and nation building? Is there any situation where that might be called for? I haven't heard that question asked in a debate. Have we talked about the GI Bill in the debates? What other benefits for veterans would they increase or decrease, and by what amounts?

Julian E. Zelizer: The Debate We Deserve

[T]hese complaints are not exactly fair. They assume the existence of a higher level of politics than we have had for a long time. As frustrating as it might be, the truth is that the quality of our political debate has greatly diminished over the course of the twentieth century. Since the late 1900s, and especially since the 1950s, we have lived in an era where political campaigns revolve around character and personality with an emphasis on scandal and gaffes.

Jason Linkins: Worst. Debate. Ever.:

All of these questions have been beaten to a pulp, grim death. And neither candidate really had anything new to add to the responses they've already offered time and time again. It was as if ABC News, left out of the twenty-four hour news cycle that spawned these zombo-droid queries, needed to get in their licks on the same matters, too, just so they could feel like they'd played a part in every last one of the primary season's glittering inanities.

Why in the world George Stephanopoulos felt compelled to ask Barack Obama if Reverend Wright "loved America" after he had already been made to give another recitation of his repudiation of Wright's remarks is a question that simply defies the imagination. What sort of sensible answer can be given to that question? It would require astral projection to properly gauge another man's emotional state.

And the flag lapel pin question came with this admonishment from Charles Gibson: "It keeps coming up, again and again." Well, no shit, Charlie! It keeps "coming up, again and again" because the media resolutely refuses to obtain the necessary courage to stop doing so.

New York Times' columnist David Brooks appears to be one of the few people nonsensical enough to actually laud ABC's mix of jive-ass wankery and lack of conviction that was on display in last night's absurd debate. Why am I not surprised? If being out-of-touch were a clinical contagion, Brooks would file his columns from a lead-lined, underground vault at the Centers For Disease Control.

I sat in front of my TV open-mouthed, listening to a hodgepodge of juvenile questions about flag jewelry, the possibility of a "dream" ticket, elderly radicals, Charlie Gibson's personal tax concerns and ministers who emote too much. What, no time for a question about Cindy McCain's purloined pork chop recipe?

ABC - God love you for breaking the torture debate in the White House story -- but why on earth didn't you ask the candidates about it -- or about much else that mattered?

Of the many important topics that got left on the cutting room floor last night as Charlie Gibson

and George Stephanopoulos played gotcha, perhaps the most surprising victim was the Constitution itself. ... The candidates views on the Constitution were probed last night in any depth only once -- over the issue of guns and the Second Amendment -- and even here, the most interesting question was never asked.

If Americans are revolted by Wednesday night's debate, think about how the rest of world sees it -- and us. Haggling over whether Barack Obama wears an American flag pen in his lapel -- and if not, what that means, as if sticking on some painted piece of metal demonstrates anyone's patriotism: Isn't this below our collective national intelligence and level of consciousness? Doesn't this continue the lowering of our national stature internationally? ... We have blown it on a scale that I'm not sure Americans actually realize unless they travel beyond their own country.

Do you think ABC didn't know who their audience would be? Do you think this wasn't researched well in advance and that the questions fed Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos weren't geared to that audience? ... ABC's market research apparently showed that keeping questions to the level of flag pins and what your pastor thinks would draw and keep an audience tuned in. Hence, the worst debate ever.

In what many considered a must-win contest for the two ABC News personalities, Charles Gibson handed rival George Stephanopoulos a resounding defeat in last night's televised debate. ... An aide to Gibson later summed up the secret to the ABC anchor's decisive victory: "He didn't let the candidates talk too much, and he made sure that this debate would be about Charles Gibson and nothing but Charles Gibson."

During Wednesday night's Pennsylvania debate, George Stephanopoulos didn't flinch from trying to smear Barack Obama by association with former '60s radical Bill Ayers. Too bad George didn't ask Hillary about her own summer spent working for a law firm run by Communists.

The very serious moderators of last night's Democratic debate couldn't have been less serious if they had been wearing clown suits made of dildos while simultaneously tickling each other with monkeys. ... The nation has witnessed, firsthand, George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson for who they really are: pandering yellow journalists. Carnival barkers. They're Penn & Teller without the talent or insight. To wit... 50 minutes without a single substantive question. Fifty. ... Here we had two members of the very serious traditional media going after two Democrats in ways which they have never challenged members of the Bush administration -- despite the Bush Republican record of disaster after disaster after disaster. In fact, George and Charlie made the FOX News Channel debates, with all of their Love American Style graphics and fire alarms and wacky fart sound effects, look like the goddamn Continental Congress.

I didn't really think Hillary Clinton would go so far as to attempt to sink the whole Democratic Party campaign in her struggle for power. But now it is clear that she has no limits. Barack Obama, attempting to take the high ground, gave her a pass on her despicable behavior. The fact that she would drag up this pathetic red herring about Obama's alleged ties to so-called terrorist Bill Ayers (my brother!) brings her right down to the level of Fox News and the National Enquirer. Obama needed to call this tactic for what it is: McCarthyism.

Mona Gable: Who Is Hillary Now?:

Hillary's desperation for blue-collar votes and her tiresome attacks on Obama are leading her down some awfully treacherous trails. Last night's debate made her look positively petty and peevish.

The Katrina-level storm that is rocking America has only just started to come ashore. And saving the voting public - and, by extension, the rest of America - from drowning in a sea of irrelevant and, at times, false information is going to require that America's journalists be heroic in their efforts. Regrettably, last night we did not see two heroic journalists in action. We saw two buffoons. The voting public was not served. It was played with.

It's a symptom of the malaise of our times when ABC News during a Democratic presidential debate forces us to discuss a candidate's relations, when he was 8 years old, to a Chicago legal activist who belonged to a 1969 spin-off group of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which bombed unoccupied (hopefully) buildings in the early 1970s. If Hillary Clinton thinks it's a big deal that Barack Obama has crossed paths with Bill Ayers, the political discourse is stuck in neutral.

What a weird night. Twenty-one Democratic debates ago the weirdness was Mike Gravel, a cranky octogenarian former senator from Alaska, who advocated national referendums for everything. Now we're down to two serious, impressive candidates but the weirdness remains. You have to attribute a lot of that to ABC News, which ran last night's debate. Charlie Gibson, who is often avuncular and charming, was unctuous and petty and wrong.

Greg Mitchell: The ABC Debate: A Shameful Night for the U.S. Media:

In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia. They, and their network, should hang their collective heads in shame. ... [N]either candidate had the courage to ask the moderators to turn to those far more important issues.

ZP Heller: ABC Blows It!

As the boos became audible towards the end of ABC's coverage, Charlie Gibson threw up his hands playfully and said, "The crowd's turning on me. The crowd is turning on me." Well Charlie, I know we Philadelphians have the reputation for being unduly harsh -- it's widely held that we once booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game, after all -- but every single jeer you heard last night was more than justifiable.

No one should be surprised that Obama had a a nightmare night. He finally got real questions for which he should have had ready answers. ... If Senator Obama had been subjected to the scrutiny that Hillary Clinton has been subjected to he would have turned to ash by now.

Every election cycle the Republicans play the same game of distraction. They want to distract people from what they have done, so they turn the focus on to what their opponents said, or what someone who can nominally be linked to their opponents said. And every year, the press dutifully plays along.


Any right-thinking American who watched the travesty of a debate on ABC last night should get mad. Very mad.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot