Considering last night's debate, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to Charlie Gibson’s and George Stephanopoulos’ challenge. Clinton and Obama agree on most policy issues, so the hosts’ task was to focus on areas of disagreement in order to create some kind of television-worthy conflict. Regrettably, that’s precisely what Gibson and Stephanopoulos get paid to do.
But the result was as dull as it was pointless, with a discussion that tells us nothing about the candidates, their visions, or their ability to govern. E&P’s Greg Mitchell called it “perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years.” The Washington Post’s Tom Shales called it “step downward for network news,” and noted that the moderators delivered “shoddy, despicable performances.” Will Bunch noted, “Quickly, a word to any and all of my fellow journalists who happen to read this open letter. This. Must . Stop.” Salon’s Walter Shapiro added:
This is the way it ends, not with a bang but a whimper. If Wednesday night’s fizzle in Philly was indeed the last debate of the Democratic primary season between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it will be remembered for, well, not much of anything.
Broadcast to a prime-time network audience on ABC and devoid of a single policy question during its opening 50 minutes, the debate easily could have convinced the uninitiated that American politics has all the substance of a Beavis and Butt-Head marathon.
So, who won? I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I’m quite certain we all lost.