Final Democrat Debate
Along with about ten million viewers I watched what hopefully will be the final debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I agree with the media critics who are saying this was the worst Presidential debate production ever. ABC seemed more interested in trying to boost its ratings than in trying to help voters understand the positions of the candidates on the issues of importance. The debate was interrupted numerous times to run promotions for ABC entertainment shows, and the first 45 minutes of questions were all about extraneous matters which have already been overplayed in the media and have no actual importance to the understanding of the positions of the candidates on the top issues. More than enough has been said about Jeremiah Wright, bitter American comments, flag lapel pins, radicals from 40 years ago, Hillary's pretend heroism in Bosnia and questions of whether she can be trusted. We did not need 45 minutes more of it at the outset of what will probably be the last head to head go around between these two Democrats.
In that first 45 minutes the two questioners, the usually pleasant Charles Gibson, who seemed like an old bumbler trying to act like a charming youth, and diminutive George Stephanopoulos, a former PR man for Hillary, who should have declined to participate because of appearances of conflict of interest, acted like they were auditioning for some sleazy pseudo-journalism show entitled "Gotcha". George even sunk so low as to submit a question from Fox News farce Sean Hannity, about Barack serving on a charity board on which a Weatherman radical from 40 years ago also served. Barack pointed out that if limited association with an aged radical is of interest, then President Clinton having pardoned two former Weathermen might be of greater interest.
The debate was the first in seven weeks and just a few days before the important Pennsylvania primary. The interest that led to the high number of viewers was pre-existing and rather than being stimulated by the way ABC conducted the program, the audience was insulted and discouraged. Two thirds of the 45 minutes was spent attacking Obama, giving him reason to be perturbed, but I think he connected best with frustrated voters when he expressed his disappointment that we were not getting to hear about the issues that really matter in this country and that the approach reflected in the first 45 minutes is just what needs to be changed in this country because it turns so many people off.
There were some specifics in the last, more substantive part of the debate, that have not received as much attention as they would have without the first 45 minutes of throw aways. On taxes, both candidates may have gone a little too far in pledging to not raise taxes on incomes under $200-250,000. On the middle east, Hillary seemed to be going way too far in saying we should try to deter wars there by announcing we will intervene in any conflicts that take place in the region.
Negative campaigning hurts the target, but it also hurts the attacker. As long as Hillary keeps it up, and the media play into it, the Democrats are being hurt. Pennsylvania should have been an easy win for Hillary. It has the third oldest population in the country and working people there are suffering more than in most other states. She is expected to win, but her margin of victory may not be very high, which should increase the pressure on super delegates to endorse Obama and on Hillary to get out of the way.