For some reason, I thought there was a debate scheduled tonight. At 8:00 p.m., I turned my television to ABC expecting to see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama answering questions posed by objective journalists. Instead, they were showing some two-hour infomercial on why Hillary Clinton should be the Democratic nominee, hosted by former Clinton senior political advisor and communications director George Stephanopoulos.
The first hour of the infomercial consisted of Stephanopoulos, with network anchor Charles Gibson by his side to lend an air of credibility, grilling Obama on the issues the American people really care about: Bitter-gate, Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and flag pins. A typical exchange would involve the moderators posing a controversial question to Obama, interrupting him in the middle of his answer to dispute what he was saying, asking him follow-up questions that transparently ignored what he had just said, and then finally stopping to ask Hillary Clinton how she felt about all this and to apologize for not giving her equal time to talk.
Eventually, to maintain the appearance of objectivity, Stephanopolous and Gibson posed a controversial question to Clinton in the form of a video by an everyday Pennsylvanian voter. The question went something like this:
Senator Clinton, you are clearly the most qualified candidate to lead this nation, but it bothered me when you told that little white lie about your trip to Bosnia. You lost my vote when you did that. So tell me, Senator… what will you do to get my vote back? I await your wise and experienced answer.
Also, what don’t we yet know about Barack Obama?
Now that’s hardball.
There were no questions posed to Hillary Clinton about her husband giving paid speeches and her chief campaign strategist lobbying in support of a trade deal she publicly opposes. No mention of Clinton Library donors. No mention of overseas investments. And while Barack Obama was asked in seven different ways about his poorly-worded statement on small town Pennsylvanians, Hillary Clinton has– to my knowledge– never been asked once to elaborate on this statement she made to Bill in 1995 regarding Southern white working class Democrats:
Screw ‘em. You don’t owe them a thing, Bill. They’re doing nothing for you; you don’t have to do anything for them.
But we’ll save that discussion for another post.
In poll after poll, when voters are asked what the two most important issues in this campaign are, the number one issue is the economy, number two is Iraq. But it was exactly 52 minutes into the debate (I double-checked the clock to make sure I wasn’t crazy) before the candidates were asked a question about an actual real-life issue. Yet that didn’t stop the moderators from going back to hot-button troth to pull out questions about the always good-for-television issues of affirmative action and the Second Amendment– ignoring issues you’d think would be more pressing to Pennsylvanians like health care, globalization, trade, terrorism, the environment, the mortgage crisis, and the recession.
And at the end, just in case the main point of the two-hour infomercial went over the head of anyone in the viewing audience, we had Jake Tapper do a brief wrap-up to tell us that the theme of tonight was that Hillary Clinton is fully-vetted, but WHAT DON’T WE KNOW ABOUT BARACK OBAMA???
Overall, it was a fairly entertaining infomercial that I would definitely stay up to watch if it came on again at 3:00 a.m. The only thing it was really missing was an 800 number that I could call to find out more of what I don’t know about Barack Obama.