Posted by: Randy Allgaier | April 17, 2008

The Tabloid Debate- ABC insults the American people

I hope we don’t see any more debates between Senators Clinton and Obama. Maybe after more than 20 debates there is little substantive that can be explored- well at least be explored and garner ratings for ABC. Flag pins, Reverend Wright regurgitated, sniper fire, elitism, bitter Pennsylvanians and asking Obama about a relationship, that is tenuous at best, with a former member of the Weather Underground who was an active “domestic terrorist” when Barack Obama was about 8 years old and who is now a Professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Thank you Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos for bringing Presidential debates to a new low!

At a moment when the American economy is in a recession, when the U.S. trade deficit is breaking records, when the vice president and the secretary of state stand accused of organizing torture parties in Washington, when the president has gotten us bogged down in two foreign quagmires, and when official gaming of globalization has stirred up food riots around the world, Gibson and Stephanopoulos led Senators Obama and Clinton into the last debate before the critical Pennsylvania primary trying to out-FOX one another.

Wednesday night’s moderators, who pummeled Obama for most of the night — almost made a viewer long for a long-winded intervention by the CNN’s self-absorbed but reasonably serious Wolf Blitzer. And the questions from viewers appeared to have been selected with the purpose of raising doubts about whether these people may be spending just a little too much time listening to Rush Limbaugh.

“In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia,” Huffington Post analyst Greg Mitchell wrote on the site Thursday. “They, and their network, should hang their collective heads in shame.

The absolute low point of a debate that rarely left the low road came when former Clinton aide Stephanopoulos asked Obama about his meetings with Bill Ayers, a 1960s Weather Underground radical who went on to become a college professor.

Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, have lived in the Hyde Park area in Chicago. So has Barack Obama. Ayers is one of numerous people, in the Chicago area, whom Barack Obama has run across. Obama has much closer relationships with numerous conservatives on the University of Chicago faculty, many of whom have given money to Obama’s campaign, and many of whom have talked to him at length and been at social occasions with him.

Gail Collins in her New York Times Op/Ed piece wrote: “I know it’s been a hard couple of weeks, people. You were all excited about this election and now you feel like someone who got all dressed up for a great event and wound up at a B-list party with a cash bar. You never want to hear the words “bitter” or “Bosnia” again. And the only political story that you’ve really enjoyed lately is the one about Cindy McCain’s list of favorite recipes being cribbed from The Food Network.

But as upset as many of us are who had to sit through the intolerable trerrible tabloid debate, Senator Barack Obama is making lemonade out of the lemons from last night.

At a town meeting today in North Carolina, where he arrived to campaign in advance of the May 6 primary, Mr. Obama seemed intent on seeking to quell any political fallout from the debate in Philadelphia. “That was the roll-out of the Republican campaign against me in November. That is what they will do,” Mr. Obama said. “They will try to focus on all these issues that don’t have anything to do with how you pay your bills at the end of the month.”

With a wide smile, and a sarcastic tone, Mr. Obama sought to brush aside criticism about his performance in what he said was the 21st debate of the presidential nominating fight.  “I will tell you, it does not get much more fun than these debates. They are inspiring events,” Mr. Obama quipped.

Obama said, “Last night, I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people. It took us 45 minutes! Forty-five minutes before we heard about health care. Forty-five minutes before we heard about Iraq,” he continued. “Forty-five — 45 — minutes before we heard about jobs. Forty-five minutes before we heard about gas prices.”

He told the audience that he intended to let the criticism roll off of him. As he spoke, he made a dramatic gesture of wiping off his sleeves and dusting off his dark suit.  “That’s what you got to do,” he said, drawing loud applause from the audience. “That’s what you’ve got to do. But understand this, that is also precisely why I’m running for president – to change that kind of politics.”

After Mr. Obama’s opening remarks, a woman in the audience asked how he intended to forcefully challenge Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.  “It’s a little hard to do with a fellow Democrat. I’m trying to show some restraint. I won’t have as much restraint with the Republicans,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “That’s the debate that I am really looking forward to. I am confident that that’s the debate the American people are going to want to have. What they are going to figure out is who is the person who can lead this country and actually solve problems,” he added. “We’ve been going through this politics – tit for tat silliness – for decades now.”

Well, Senator Obama- I’ll take my lead from you and ignore the idiocy of last night’s debate. But truly this debacle was not just an insult to Senator Obama (and to some extent Senator Clinton) it was an insult to the American people. Maybe I am part of that undefined “elite” but I hope my fellow citizens are more intelligent than falling for the garbage that passed for issues last night. I hope that the American people learn from mistakes- those mistakes are George W. Bush first term and George W. Bush second term. It is possible we only made one mistake since in 2000 Al Gore actually won the popular vote.

Let’s get out of the muck and mire, the tit-for-tat, the gotcha politics and take this election seriously. There are serious issues in this country and in the world. Having a debate on tabloid stories is demeaning, demoralizing and just plain wrong.


  1. Hey, when the League of Women Voters ran them, they were respectable debates. But I also have to say that the candidates showed up prepared in those days too. Obama came in unprepared. Hillary Clinton did her homework and didn’t have any trouble answering questions. Obama has to accept responsibility for something one of these days. He’s no Harry Truman, that’s for sure.

  2. Let’s talk about all the questionable people that Senator Clinton has been attached too. PLEASE! The homework that Senator Clinton did- was to study the Republican Play Book!

  3. So Randy…that is your justification for the questionable, nay abominable relationships that our senator from Ill has fostered through the ages???
    That Hillary is the lowest common multiple and this charade of Hope is no better!? Not the highest common factor that he projects himself to be but a clone of the same.

    Except of course he does not have the clintonian years to expand that closet of his and he can always take refuge in an old posting on his website on the war or that washington style politics is not him.

    Hope…inspiration…hoax! Take your pick. It is all one nice package!

    One debate where you ask him direct questions about his associations and the whining begins. What did he expect…….after his screeching pastor, Bill Ayers, Rezko and his other own inherent contradictions.

    I say to all Hillary haters…. Stay home if you hate her. In Obama, you have just another Hillary anways! And then some!

  4. I certainly don’t want to see a third term of Bush- which is exactly what we will get with McCain. Precisely what do you like about Republicans? Thanks to Bush et al., we are in horrible economic straits, we are in an endless war that costs billions of dollars and thousands of lives and it isn’t making us any safer- because we’ve basically ignored Afghanistan and bit by bit our civil liberties are being destroyed.

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