17 April 2008
The ABC of Debates
I watched the ABC debate last night, and it's as bad as people say. The bad thing about it is not whether the moderators harassed Senator Obama more than they did Senator Clinton, or whether it was appropriate to ask a question suggested by Sean Hannity. The awful thing about the show (let's call it that and not a debate) was that the moderators thought it just as important to have the senators debate who'd make the better candidate as it was to debate who'd be the better President. It was as important to know how vulnerable either candidate would be to smears and guilt-by-association attacks from now to November as to learn what each proposes to do from January forward. That's the justification for "gotcha" journalism as practiced on the news networks, and it renders these shows decreasingly meaningful for anyone who wants to make a knowledgeable choice in the remaining primaries or in the fall. They've grown worse as the field has narrowed, which is an argument against candidates giving up as early as they did, and for bringing independent candidates into the fall debates. When it comes down to McCain vs. the Democrat, the Republican will take his lumps just as much as Obama did last night, and however one might gloat at his discomfiture, we should still regret the insult to his intelligence, his opponent's, and ours.