In case you missed it: George W. Bush checks out on reality
Summary: George W. Bush wasn't even here when all that "economic collapse" stuff happened, don't look at him if you want to blame somebody for Iraq, he's never sad (sorry poor people, families of dead people and the rest of you suckers,) and boy, Air Force One is cool! Here's part one:
"I am surprised that, you know, we've been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn't willing to say it to my face. But I guess we've got one last debate. So presumably, if he ends up feeling that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate."
Several prominent journalists have signed an open letter denouncing ABC News for last week's shameful conduct of the 21st Democratic debate. Among the signers are Eric Alterman, Ezra Klein and Joe Conason. Meanwhile, George Stephanopoulos claims to be "taken aback" by the backlash, according to the WaPo's Howard Kurtz:
"Senator Obama is the front-runner," said Stephanopoulos, the network's chief Washington correspondent and a former Clinton White House aide. "Our thinking was, electability was the number one issue," and questions about "relationships and character go to the heart of it."
Besides, he added, "you can't do a tougher question for Senator Clinton than 'six out of 10 Americans don't think you're honest.' "
Meanwhile, the slams on ABC go international, as a Guardian commentator chronicles blog reaction to the Worst. Debate. Ever.
Inside the journalistic fold, Editor and Publisher editor Greg Mitchell is downright savage (and rightfully so):
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.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues had to wait for their few moments in the sun as Obama was pressed to explain his recent "bitter" gaffe and relationship with Rev. Wright (seemingly a dead issue) and not wearing a flag pin while Clinton had to answer again for her Bosnia trip exaggerations.
Then it was back to Obama to defend his slim association with a former '60s radical -- a question that came out of rightwing talk radio and Sean Hannity on TV, but delivered by former Bill Clinton aide Stephanopolous. This approach led to a claim that Clinton's husband pardoned two other '60s radicals. And so on.
More time was spent on all of this than segments on getting out of Iraq and keeping people from losing their homes and other key issues. Gibson only got excited when he complained about anyone daring to raise taxes on his capital gains.
Yet neither candidate had the courage to ask the moderators to turn to those far more important issues. But some in the crowd did -- booing Gibson near the end. ...
And the New York Times digs into the inconvenient ties that bind members of the major media with the politicians they cover:
After he dropped out of the race, Mr. Richardson endorsed Mr. Obama. News reports said Mrs. Clinton had privately told him that Mr. Obama could not win in November. The Clinton camp denied any such statement, and the ill will between Mr. Richardson and the Clintons spilled into public view — and apparently simmers on.
Mr. Stephanopoulos, a debate moderator, posited that Mrs. Clinton had said it, then moved on. “I’m not going to ask you about that conversation; I know you don’t want to talk about it,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said in an edgy, we-both-know-better tone. Mrs. Clinton gave him a quelling glare but he persisted. “But a simple yes-or-no question: Do you think Senator Obama can beat John McCain or not?”
Eventually, after he asked again, Mrs. Clinton answered the question, saying, almost in exasperation: “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
The debate between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, in Philadelphia, was fierce and hostile, and Mrs. Clinton managed to keep her opponent on the defensive for much of it, bludgeoning Mr. Obama for his gaffe about bitter voters and his less savory personal connections. When she talked about the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., he shifted from foot to foot, looking down and squirming, if not seething, struggling to hang on to his soft diction, flat affect and refusal to project anger.
But viewers were also treated to another, less common spectacle: the veiled ties and tensions between news media stars and political figures that sometimes make voters bitter, leading them to cling to political satire by the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as a way to explain their frustration.
It was weird to see hints of the disgruntled employee/imperious boss dynamic between Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mrs. Clinton. But it was also strange to observe the intramural promos tucked into some of the moderators’ questions. Charles Gibson, another moderator, opened by citing a notion proposed by former Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York, whom Mr. Gibson described as an “elder statesman” of the Democratic Party. Mr. Cuomo’s son Chris is an anchor on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where Mr. Gibson also worked for years. ...
It's almost not worth debating, particularly with the likes of David Brooks, or the newly Murdoched Wall Street Journal, both of whom have a clear interest in just the sort of outcome we saw last night.
The more I think about last night's presidential debate on ABC, the more pissed off I'm getting...
What is it about Philly, that when you let members of the national media enter the city limits, they instantly turn into hit men? First, Tim Russert went all 6th century on Hillary Clinton in November, prompting his colleagues at MSNBC to begin asking "is Hillary finished!!!???" ... and now ABC's Gibson and Stephanopoulos, who should officially form a media partnership and call it Murder, Inc. (with all due apologies to Irv Gotti), performing one hell of a hit job on Barack Obama.
On the flip side, there's an outside chance last night's debacle might actually help Barack, by engendering the sympathy (or outrage) of enough voters to help him close the gap even further in PA. Or, the undecideds will go running for cover in Hillary's camp to escape all the "terrorists" in Obama's corner, as sold to them by ABC. Only Tuesday will tell.
So far, the online polls are all scoring it two to one for Barack, and if the ABC message boards are to be believed, they may have lost a number of viewers, and Barack may have gained some new support.
Meanwhile, Tom Shales of the Washington Post has today's must-read piece. Here's the opening:
When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates' debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.
For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.
The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also, neither of those cable networks, if memory serves, rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny, token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by being competent. ...
The encounter, particularly in the early stages, seemed more like a grilling of Obama on a Sunday-morning talk show than a debate between the two candidates.
MSNBC's morning team was piling on ABC this morning, but the network can't claim too much seniority, having driven the "bittergate" non-story into the ground for a full week (with no signs of slowing down). But Shales is right when he says the cable networks have been better at staging these debates, in part because they aren't driven by the need to go to commercial nearly as often. One cable network that is the clear exception is Fox News, which has been denied the opportunity to host a Democratic debate -- at least until last night, when by all evidence, they co-produced the one purportedly staged by ABC.