Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You don't need a Weatherman to know how much Charles Gibson blows

I've followed politics closely for only a decade, so I realize this statement doesn't necessarily carry all that much weight, but I think tonight's primary debate questions were the most insipid and ridiculous I have ever heard.

It's tempting to simply discuss the obvious anti-Obama bias on display from both moderators - but particularly former Bill Clinton staffer George Stephanopolous. (The guy used to work for Hillary's husband! Why would you hire him to moderate a debate between a Clinton and anyone else? It seems almost like an intentionally hostile move towards one candidate.)

But the unfairness towards one candidate is only a small part of the story. I think the bigger issue is that the entire first half of the debate was entirely without substance, just a series of useless queries about vapid Beltway gossip.

Question 1: Will you pick one another to be your running mates?

Who cares. We're trying to decide which one of them is going to win, not who's going to be fucking Vice-President. Get a calendar. Also, they've answered this question at previous debates.

Question 2 (Charles Gibson to Obama): Do you understand why some people in small Pennsylvania towns find your comments patronizing?

Gibson intentionally phrased this question as an attack on Obama. He didn't ask Obama to clarify the now-infamous "bitter" "cling to guns" comments (which I think most sensible people agree is just a poorly-phrased statement of truth). He didn't ask Hillary her reaction to what Obama said (which is the way a rational journalist would probably approach the subject). He asked Obama if he understood why some people find him patronizing. It assumes from the beginning that many people in small-town America were upset with Obama, which doesn't really seem to be indicated from his consistent poll numbers.

I mean, why start from this assumption, unless you simply want to carefully phrase a criticism of Obama. "You are patronizing. Tell me why."

Also, please note that this issue is about a statement he made at a private event that he has already explained and discussed for a week. It has nothing to do with anything.

Question 3: Clinton is asked about something she's rumored to have said to Bill Richardson on the phone.

Do I even need to get into this one? This does not sound like a real question at a political debate. This sounds like high school students hanging around the lockers. Who cares what Hillary said to Bill on the fucking phone!

Question 4: Charlie Gibson directly confronts Obama about an invitation he rescinded to Pastor Jeremiah Wright one year ago. Why did it take him a full year to officially distance himself from Wright's inflammatory rhetoric, Gibson demands to know!

Completely asinine. I couldn't believe what I was hearing with this. Gibson is taking up a large chunk of prime time television to bark at a candidate for president for not rebuking his pastor early enough. I mean, what? This kicked off a full 10 minute conversation about whether or not it's appropriate to stop going to your church if you and your minister disagree about politics.

As someone who does not attend church and doesn't really care what Obama's pastor thinks about stuff, this just couldn't have been a less important discussion for me. They might as well have spent 10 minutes comparing various brands of anti-dandruff shampoos.

"Well, I respect Barack's experience, obviously, but if he thinks Selsun Blue is going to be as effective in taking the fight to my scalp itch as the more reliably experienced Head and Shoulders, I would have no choice but to question his potential judgment as our Commander-in-Chief!"

Question 5: To Clinton: Should all of the members of Pastor Wright's church leave?


Question 6: THIS IS A REAL QUESTION FROM THE DEBATE: "Senator Obama, does Reverend Wright love America as much as you do?"

What could our wizened panel of expert newsmen have possibly wanted in response to this query? Suggestive arm gestures?

"Well, Mr. Papadopolis, Pastor Wright loves America THIS MUCH, but I love America THIS MUCH."

It's just ludicrous beyond words. Can we all agree that we're all quite fond of America, that she's a swell gal and we're super-excited to take her to the box social, and just get on with the actual business of life in the 21st Century, please? I figured they'd have to follow up "who wuvves Amewica more" with either a commercial break or "How much do you love unicorns," but no, Gibson had other scuzzy DC backwaters to explore.

Question 7: Hey, Hillary, you lied about that Bosnia thing! How can we ever trust you again?

More silly meaningless pap. Yeah, Clinton almost certainly meant to "misspeak" about her trip to Bosnia, making it sound more dangerous than it was and thus make her seem more "experienced" and "heroic." But that's pretty much what politicians do; embellish. I'm not saying you wouldn't write an article on this if you were the first to figure it out, but taking time out of a debate to force a candidate to admit that she added some spice to an old anecdote to make it more of a crowd-pleaser is like spending an entire interview getting Michael Bay to admit he uses a lot of CGI.

"Yes, okay, I guess you could say that I don't need to always have shots in which impossibly-cumbersome objects are thrown from the back of speeding trucks onto sun-streaked freeways at rush hour, and yet I include these in my films constantly anyway. That would be a fair assessment."

Question 8: (ARE YOU NOTICING A TREND?): Does Obama think Hillary is honest and truthful?

More high school crap. I'm really not interested in what Obama thinks of Hillary at this point. He's spoken about his high opinion of her at length on several occasions, at pretty much every Democratic debate. If he had some interesting new spin on her honesty, I'm sure he'd find his way around to it. Why ask this? It's like they're just hoping he'll say something catty and they'll spar a bit and it'll make for 5 minutes of entertaining footage. In this way, the moderators of the ABC Debate and the producers of syndicated afternoon reality dating shows are identical.

Question 9: They play a fucking video of some insane old fart grilling Obama over not wearing an American flag pin on his lapel.

Ho-ly crap. I was live-blogging this debate, and that's probably a good thing, because it gave me a goal, a reason to go on living. ("Must finish the job.") If I were watching this at home alone, I may have just plunged into a dark Scandinavian despair from which I could never emerge. Such was my lack of faith in the human race upon hearing this question put to a candidate for President.

He didn't wear the right pin? What is he, pledging Beta Chi? IT'S A GODDAMN PIN. You know who's great with pieces of flair? George W. Bush. He'll put on the right costume for the occasion, no matter which member of the Village People you're looking for that day. Too bad playing dress-up is about all the man can do well. (Okay, okay, to be fair...he's a brush-clearing dynamo.)

I'll also add here another major criticism of Charles Gibson's behavior tonight...After this irretrievably stupid video question, Gibson interjected that he felt "this could be an issue in the general election." This was his little Fox News trick for covertly trashing a librul Commie. Pretend you're not directly attacking the candidate by claiming to "report attacks" made by vague external forces.

It's the Sean Hannity "some have said" trick. (And, just so you know, "some have said" that Hannity coached moderator and ex-Clintonista George Stephanopoulos for this very debate). Gibson's blaming hypothetical Republicans who exist months into the future of making a campaign issue AGAIN out of this stupid Obama-flag-pin piffle, when the only one doing anything of the sort is Charles Gibson. I know a lot of Americans are stupid, but are they really this stupid? To fall for rhetorical sleight-of-hand so forced and awkward, it would humiliate Tony Wonder?

(By the by, Hillary also employed the "Republicans will make this attack" trick several times tonight, and it just always seems completely insipid to me, completely transparent. They just think we're all idiots and that we don't get it. Next, they're going to tell us the debate's being held at Asphinctersayswhat Unviersity.)

Question 10: They ask Obama about his relationship with (oh man...) former Weatherman Bill Ayers.

This is so tired. Obama has already discussed this at length, he doesn't really know the guy that well and he hasn't received any kind of real endorsement from the guy. TOTAL NON-ISSUE. You don't need a Weatherman to know how much Charles Gibson blows.

Then they took a commercial break. This was 45 minutes of debate and there was not a single question with any real purpose or merit.

For clarity: I'm going to vote for whichever Democrat is the nominee in the fall, I'd prefer that Democrat to be Obama, and I'm not even particularly upset that he seemed to be the target of the moderators wrath tonight. These questions were just ridiculously inane and embarrassing for ABC.

As for the candidates themselves, I thought Obama seemed fairly off his game tonight, and probably had his worst-ever debate performance. I know I was fairly incensed by the time the Ayers stuff came up, just gobsmacked at how pointless every single issue had been for the entire first half of the night, and Obama by that point seemed tense from playing constant defense. He seemed almost vulnerable tonight, even in the slightly more sane, more policy-focused second half, which is not a good thing.

I don't think Clinton came off much better, but at this point, a tie for her is not bad. She's fighting uphill, so if she ties, it's really almost like gaining ground. It almost felt like watching a general election debate, with HilRod as the Republican. She didn't turn down a single opportunity to hit Obama, no matter how stupid or baseless.

At one point, she made this case: Republicans have spent so long picking her apart, they've already found out about all the horrible things she's done. Obama's fresh meat! Why not go with the scumbag you know?

I think you have to kind of question someone who thinks that way. So because most Americans have already been well-trained to loathe the very core of you, you're a better choice than the new guy they know relatively little about? Guh?

At another point, Clinton said she felt the Jeremiah Wright thing, that has been dissected on television daily for weeks now, needs "further investigation." Then she tried to lump Obama together with Louis Farrakhan. You stay classy, HilRod.


Anonymous said...

Some of those questions sound legit to me. Don't you have to get beyond the PR spew from both candidates and try to see what their character really is? We are after all trying to choose who might be the next president of the US. A person's character can be judged by those they associate with. Whether that be Rev. Wright or Bill Clinton. Obama has no substance behind the Change issues he has proclaimed and it is becoming more and more apparent that he lacks experience to lead because he keeps blowing it. Clinton is basically running on anti Bush and pro-look-my-husband-was-pres sentiment. Are either a good choice for America? (Not that the Republicans have a better candidate... old-crotchety-McCain.)

Michael said...

That debacle was unwatchable. It amounts to noting more than a political hit-job on Obama. I was almost in disbelief at some of the questions. I was like "Really!? That's where we're going with this?"

I almost fell out my seat when they asked "Does Rev. Wright love America as much as you do?"

How the hell do you respond to that? The fact that they sunk so low as to even ask something like that means no matter your answer, you lose anyway. It's like asking Hillary Clinton if Monica Lewinsky loves Bill as much as she does. The level of absurdity in that debate went far beyond anything we could have ever thought possible.

fed up with sore losers said...

why is everyone worried about the first 20 minutes. the rest was pretty informative with some tough questions. just too bad obama and his fan base can't handle a losing debate. i think the voters need to know what really went down after listening to reverend wright for 20 years and why he lied at first that in 20 years he never heard that kind of sermon. i think a lot of voters still feel that he doesn't answer any question he doesn't like and voters need real answers to allow us to make an intelligent decision on who to vote for

Lons said...

A few points, Fed Up:

(1) We're talking about the first 45 minutes, not 20.

(2) There was absolutely no information shared about any of these incidents. They were all attacks that have previously been leveled at Obama, to which he has already responded.

(3) No politicians answer questions "they don't like." This is the mark of a skilled politician.

(4) I wrote this: "I'm going to vote for whichever Democrat is the nominee in the fall, I'd prefer that Democrat to be Obama, and I'm not even particularly upset that he seemed to be the target of the moderators wrath tonight." It's a bit of a stretch to consider me a "sore loser," considering I'd be fine with voting for Hillary and she was the only Obama opponent on stage.