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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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April 17, 2008 4:06 PM

What'd you think of last night's debate?

Posted by David Postman

I missed the broadcast of last night’s Clinton/Obama debate. I feel bad about that because it appears I missed a real important event in the annals of television. This stinker will be talked about for years, just like that episode of the Newlywed Game everyone over 40 claims to have seen.

Really, someone asked about American flag pins? ABC let that question on the air? For those of you who are routinely frustrated by my lack of opinions on the news, let me say this clearly: I don’t care about American flag pins. I didn’t care when news ethicists were unhappy that newscasters sported them post-9/11 and I don’t care which politicians wear them or don’t wear them or wear them on the wrong lapel, or whether female politicians wear big, bejeweled, American flags, or not. I wouldn’t care if the flag pins waved themselves and sang God Bless America. In fact, this may be one of my deepest held beliefs. I put effort into not caring. I can exhaust myself not caring.

ABC headlines the story, “Fight night in Philly,” so the network got what it wanted. But the hardest punches come in the 16,778 comments posted by readers at the ABC News Web site. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos both come in for a pummeling. (And why didn’t Obama say anything during the debate about Stephanopoulos’ time with the Clintons? He could have started an answer with something like, “Well George, as you surely know from years working for the Clintons …”)

For a different take, see also where debate reaction is the top story with 100 comments.

The story that lead ABC’s Web site a few minutes ago was headlined, Clinton: ‘No whining from Hillary.’

"When I watched that debate last night, I got kinda tickled," the former President said at an American Legion Hall event in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania. "After the [debate], her opponents', oh, the people working were saying, 'Oh this is so negative, why are they doing this.' Well they've been beatin' up on her for 15 months. I didn't hear her whining when he said she was untruthful in Iowa or called her the senator from Punjab."

Stephanopoulos told The Associated Press:

The questions were tough and fair and appropriate and relevant. We wanted to focus at first on the issues that were not focused on during the last debates.

It’s enough to make me miss the snowman.

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Posted by thekaj

4:57 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Bill should think back a couple months to when Hillary was complaining about getting drilled in the early primaries. She seemed to be doing a lot of whinning then.

I think the most telling comment came from David Brooks, who seems to be about the only commentator who thought that it was a good debate last night. He said it's a journalist's job to make politicians uncomfortable. That seems like a fairly accurate assessment, which is also exactly what's wrong with journalism today. Used to be, journalists thought their job was to expose the truth. If that meant making politicians uncomfortable, so be it. Now, the goal is to make politicians squirm. Who cares if they actually uncover the truth as a result. Can they make the person shift in their chair? Stutter a bit? Can they get the opponent to pile on and twist the knife? All good "journalism".

Of course, this isn't good journalism. It's the exact same thing as that reality TV show on FOX where they hook people up to a lie detector and ask them embarassing questions.

Posted by john

5:12 PM, Apr 17, 2008

B.O has a big problem he can't talk unless he has a script.

B.O. has to clarify what he or his wife says now.

Let up on ABC's guys, as we should know where B.O. stands for today not in Jan. 2009.

We came away with a different view of B.O.

We Democrats are screwed if this is the best we have.

Posted by Hinton

5:40 PM, Apr 17, 2008

And the circular firing squad continuuuuuuues.

Look, David, we already know Obama's you're guy. Unless they're sending you the big bucks, there's really no reason to turn your blog into a Kos Kids outlet.

Posted by liberalgirl

6:06 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Obama showed that he can't handle the pressure of being questioned by people who actually push topics that are unfavorable to him. Moreover, I believe that the people a candidate associates with can say a lot about that person and her or his judgment. Why were the questions about his associations with people he is now trying to distance himself from inappropriate? Because both Obama's demeanor during the questions and the answers he gave took a bit of the shine off of his Obama-Lama halo?
I am now just as intrigued by his claims to hardly know Ayers and his current characterization of Wright as his "former" pastor as I am about the relationships themselves. I feel both can be very revealing of Barack Obama's character.

Posted by Turbine

6:34 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I can hardly wait for the Debate where a former Obama staffer gets to ask Hillary on live national tv.
"Senator Clinton, in the last debate you said that if Reverand Wright had been your pastor you would have gotten up and left because you did not agree with what was being said, yet you stayed 2 decades with a man who publiclly humiliated you with extramarital affairs dozens of times. Why didn't you get up and leave? Did you really approve of what was going on? What does that say about your judgement to allow yourself to be associated with such behavior? Is it Presidential? Or was it merely prudent given your personal political amitions?"

Posted by John Mahon

6:45 PM, Apr 17, 2008

The debate last night proved that senator O'Bama is not ready to be President. No way!!!
He was peevish, testy, uncertain, ill prepared, angry, inarticulate, etc.
This guy is a fad... like a hoola hoop.

Posted by William Anderson

6:48 PM, Apr 17, 2008

It was better than expected. Many of the Obama supporters are bitter because ABC had the temerity to ask or let Pennsylvania voters ask Obama pointed questions. They think it is okay for Hillary Clinton to always be the first one grilled with the first question, giving Obama ample opportunity to listen to and prepare his response. I applaud ABC for not acting like the pansy-media who have been to careful to offend the black community and be labeled as racists immediately. Anyway, finally some news outfit has backbone to not give Obama a free pass with the typical liberal media kid-glove treatment they have donned on this seemingly affirmative action candidate.

Posted by Nikki

6:49 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I am boycotting ABC programming and their advertisers for two months! I am really disappointed in how Gibson and Steph ran the debate last night. It just goes to prove how inferior the network really is!

Posted by Leslie

6:50 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Unfortunately, it wasn't suprising. When will the networks realize that we are so over the hype, and we see it coming a mile away. HST predicted that topless women will be reporting the news and I think he's right. The moderator's questions were certainly a step in that direction.

Posted by will vatnsdal

7:10 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I thhink that Hillary has been pounded for a long time, and she took it! Obama abd the press cannot!

Posted by Scott V

7:10 PM, Apr 17, 2008

FINALLY!!!!! These left wing "Presidential hopefuls" got the tough questioning that should have been taking place for months!! I do care about the judgement of those who feel they deserve to be President of the United States. These issues do matter!!! This is nothing compared to what they will see soon.

Posted by PulSamsara

7:12 PM, Apr 17, 2008

What do I think of last night's debate ? I think that my time is precious and I could have spent it playing with my 3 year old rather than try to become better informed by watching a rerun of Entertainment Tonight disguised as a 'Presidential Debate' - It was real garbage and it makes feel more cynical and , yes, bitter too.

Posted by unse

7:16 PM, Apr 17, 2008

The debate last night was as good, if not better, than any this year. Funny how when the shoe's put on the other foot, it somehow becomes more binding. Obama has had such an easy ride thus far...he's very quickly taken the place of Reagan as "the Teflon President"...and when tough questions are put to him, whether the subjects are governmental issues or personal issues, his supporters and staffers complain. What did he think he was getting into? a high school debate?

Let's face it...although the press loves Obama (and our media is supposted to be unbiased), Hillary always comes off as the one who knows her material, has obviously studied the issues, and show her intelligence and capabilities. Everything in our history says that a strong, intelligent woman in our American society still has to not only dance backwards but do it on 5" heels.

Hillary was great. Could someone give her her due, please! And if Obama can't stand the heat, tell him to get out of the "kitchen".

Posted by Jon Clark

7:17 PM, Apr 17, 2008

It is about time Barack is given the same treatment as Hillary. Poor boy! If he were a woman it would have been worse.

Posted by CM

7:18 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Oh wahhhh for Obama. Hillary's been the subject of the majority of negative press and didn't deserve it to begin with. It's been pure sexism. If Obama can't take the heat get out of the way of fire!

Posted by Dee Nealy

7:21 PM, Apr 17, 2008

My seventeen year old daughter could have asked the the canidates questions that the American people are more concerned about than the ones Gibson, Stephanopoulos asked. Shame on you ABC.

Posted by Orwell Jr.

7:24 PM, Apr 17, 2008

A people get leaders they deserve. BUsh was karma for the murdering USA military mindless insane machine of killers. History will record that a million people, more, died because of the moron the USA elected. Obama and Clinton are marginally better than McCain, but they are inadequate in the challenge to turn around a nation that has lost its soul.

Posted by EX Democrat

7:24 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I think it was wonderful to watch two political idiots go at each other and lessen both of their chances of being elected the next President of the United States. We certainly deserve better than either of the two cadidates from the Democratic party. We don't need a black racist nor a habitual liar in the nations highest office!

Posted by Buddynoel

7:28 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Shame on ABC for treating Barak Obama like he was Republican. The world knows that he, his supporters and his media backers have jaws made of thin glass. He should be handled gently if we expect him to take on all our issues as leader of the free world.

Posted by alex

7:29 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Hillary Clinton was pounded prior on MSNBC by Tim Russert. Why didn't the Obama fanatics complain about unfair treatment then? Whenever Barack Obama cannot provide answers eloquently as he would like to, regardless of the questions, he and his fanatics find excuses to justify his weak performance or brush it off with some colloquial remark or joke.

It is also true that the Barack Obama's spontaneous comments or answers are usually insipid (always tagged to the line, "change Washington politics" OR "I agree with Senator Clinton...") Implicitly, I conjecture that he does well in speeches only because he has scripts prepared for him. He really does not have any fresh or innovative ideas that he pontificates to us. Just look at his voting records and his links to controversies. He is just another politician who feeds on buzzwords!

Posted by rleo

7:30 PM, Apr 17, 2008

You know that George and Charlie must have done a good job since all the Barak rump swabbers are crying like little babies.

The crappy job was done by the candidates pretending to run for President

Posted by Mich Indie

7:47 PM, Apr 17, 2008

It was a useless endeavor. Most people have made up their mind. The only meaningful questions were whether they thought their fellow party member could beat the Mac, and was Hillary actually aware that she lost voters from her chronic mythomania.

Posted by Matthew Lubic

8:07 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Sorry you missed the debate. Then again maybe not. For a while I thought I had tuned in to the Jerry Springer Show. The kinds of questions George Stephanopoulos asked Obama are the kinds of questions Springer asks his "guests" and he asked them for the same reasons Springer does; to see if he could get a rise out of Obama and raise some sparks.

Stephanopoulos wasn't being a journaliist at that debate. He was being a game show host. He ought to be ashamed of himself but any jerk with as many dead gray cells as he has wouldn't be able to compute the reasons why.

Posted by AD

8:15 PM, Apr 17, 2008

The so called debate was a poor showing of what really is important in this election. That's why I don't usually watch MSM. Obama did have to react to silly yet uncomfortable questions. But really, asking whether a former Marine Pastor who's survived and thrived during the horrible 50-60's as a black person, is thoughtless. Flag lapels? many a white collar criminal wears em. So what, actions means more than lapel pins, how shallow. Despite Billary's, Stephapoplous and Gibson's swipes at Obama, he was gracious and tried to remain on relevant issues. It just reinforces Obama's point of how so much effort is wasted on trash issues. Oh well, haven't watched ABC in years, with the exception of this debate, but I'm sure I won't be watching ABC any time soon.

Posted by Sanjoy Das

8:33 PM, Apr 17, 2008

George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson were disgraceful. What about Mark Penn and NAFTA? Tuzla sniper fire was only mentioned once while Obama was getting grilled on non-issues.

The debate was thoroughly lopsided in favor of Hillary who lost no opportunity to diss Obama. I can't help but count the number of times Hillary and Bill have whined about the media being unfair on her. Sjhe even whined on a previous debate.

The whole thing was a farce.

Sign the petition:

Posted by Estella

8:36 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I won't be seeing ABC News anytime soon.

Posted by CurtJ

8:38 PM, Apr 17, 2008

The Neo Con owned Newa Media is in Collusion with the Neo Con Parasites infesting the Executive Branch. They're being paid billions of American Taxpayer dollars to obfuscate the truth, tell lies, half truths and to manipulate the news so the ideals, policies and actions of the Neo Cons are cast in a favorable light and to suppress or obfuscate the facts so any information is muddled up.
It's called Collusion and is a very good reason to break up every one of these Conglomerates into small companies And to Impeach any and all Legislators and Executive Branch officials who passed legislation benefitting anyone after accepting money from them.

Posted by Daniel K

9:05 PM, Apr 17, 2008


If I ever needed any reminding of why I can't stand so much of the mainstream media political coverage (with some notable exceptions such as yourself and Joel at the PI), that first hour of the ABC "debate" between Obama and Clinton was more than enough.

The entire hour was wasted on the stupid crap we're all sick of. It was all the candidates could do to try and steer the discourse to the issues that matter to us most: the economy and jobs, the Iraq war and occupation, health care, education, energy alternatives, the environment, corruption, the power of special interests, etc...

Instead, the focus was entirely on the media's obsessive sensationalizing of the horse race tit for tat that has been going on for the past month. The flag pin was not even the worst of it.

I suggest you view the debate video, if you haven't yet done so, just to see it for yourself.

Pathetic stuff.

Posted by Pippa

9:57 PM, Apr 17, 2008

I swear I thought I was watching an episode of a new reality show - Survivor: Presidential Candidates.

I'm surprised that Stephanopoulos and Gibson didn't turn to the audience to determine who should be "voted off the island"

What a waste of time!

Posted by Mike in Far-West Texas

11:51 PM, Apr 17, 2008

One more thought regarding the moderation. Obama supporters, as a crutch, screech about George Stephanopoulos having worked for the Clintons. They are absolutely right, he did.

However, when pointing such out why do they not include the fact that he also later wrote a book that was unfavorable to the Clintons.

Also, he has never on any broadcast that I know of shown any bias "for" the Clintons, if anything he has frequently shown a bias toward the Clintons.

So, which is he, for or against the Clintons? If you truly know, you know more than I do.

Right now he is satan to you Obama folks because he harshly questioned the image of your enigmatic candidate.

Posted by Brian

1:10 AM, Apr 18, 2008

I thought Seattle was liberal? Awful lot of conservative astroturfing and concern-trolling going on here.

Look, folks, this isn't about ABC being unfair to Obama. It's about ABC being unfair to the American people. It's about ABC failing in its duty to foster an informed electorate. Democracy cannot survive without good journalism.

Posted by jb

3:39 AM, Apr 18, 2008

The real complaint is that Obama got asked tough questions and performed horribly. None of those questions were particularly difficult or devastating but his responses made him look awful -- arrogant, defensive, petty, and ignorant.

The flag-pin question was a give away if there ever was one. All he had to say is I respect those that wear flag-pins, I love America and wear my flag in my heart or some such answer.

On Ayers, come clean and give us an answer. All he did there was leave us intrigued about what he's hiding when he could've satisfied the public's curiousity with a straight answer. Here I'll help: "We're friends. I didn't know him back then."

The same with Rev. Wright -- he gave us a speech on race but never really addressed the relationship. In the debate, Wright is disowned and then not disowned.

On bitter-gate, how bout a simple apology? Own up, you were wrong and you need to say you're sorry. There's no excuse for stereotyping people.

Obama's problem is that he's arrogant and can't think on his feet. His response to everything is a passive-aggressive attack on someone else. Bitter-gate? His answer is an attack on Clinton and McCain for calling him out on his own words. Then it's our fault for not understanding what he meant even though by his own admission he didn't say it well. Rev. Wright? His answer is everybody is at fault but me and everyone is a racist. Bill Ayers? My Republican friend and fellow Senate member's rhetoric on abortion is equal to the actions of a domestic terrorist! It's been his pattern the whole campaign to make his mistakes someone else's fault.

Posted by Kevin

5:08 AM, Apr 18, 2008

don't feel was pure trash....(imagine the National Enquirer hosting it)

and yes, it was an abc ambush of Obama,

and yes, Obama deflected all the mud thrown at him.

and Obama had the last word wtih his closing statement: and he was good

Polls will reflect it....

Obama won.

(McClinton loses again)(and again)

Posted by Marcie

7:58 AM, Apr 18, 2008

I would have liked the tough ABC moderators to explore the guilt by association link a little more with Clinton rather than Obama - Her link? Bill Clinton. He's been VERY busy since the WH taking money from a lot of people. Around Washington giving money means access to power. Even before and during his time in the WH he was unfaithful (do we really think it ended with Monica?) so shouldn't Hillary's morals come into question? How about questions regarding impeachment and appropriate behavior for a president? If tabloid questions were going to pass for "tough" journalism, why didn't we get to some real juicy stuff? Flag pins??? Please- amatuers!!

Posted by upchuck

9:28 AM, Apr 18, 2008

just remember that in the industry the "tv news" hosts are referred to as "talent" not "journalists" charlie and george are chosen more than anything else for their haircuts and how they look in cheap suits. the tv networks spend more money on polling to see what keeps people watching so they can sell more commercials than they do on actually doing journalistic work. (by the way according to industry polling, cats and storm coverage play well in our "market") it's a sad state of affairs, but we shouldn't be surprised.

Posted by Jim Guthrie

10:45 AM, Apr 18, 2008

....reaches for another bowl of popcorn ... with a biiiig smile on my face.

Do some of you even hear yourselves?

Posted by andy

11:08 AM, Apr 18, 2008

Given the anti- american crap Obama's camp has been spewing - the flag pin was very timely.

Obama has yet to demonstrate he's more than an empty suit.

Posted by Hal Cooper

11:29 AM, Apr 18, 2008

DEar Sirs: The ABC moderators were obsessed with attempting to focus on trivia on interest only to people inside the Capitol Beltway. They appeared to be trying to prevent at all costs the dealing with the serious issues in the election campaign by the candidates to concentrate on the inconsequential matters. The entire debate focus needs to shift to what actions and programs the candidates want to take to deal with the rapidly deteriorating economy, energy, infrastructure and the war. Hal Cooper

Posted by MPS

12:58 PM, Apr 18, 2008

I totally agree with Turbine's comments re: Hillary "standing" by her man...v the OB's former pastor..I didn't see the "debate"...will it be rebroadcast?

Posted by Larry

3:39 PM, Apr 18, 2008

Some actual tough questions, what a relief after all the softball- -it was revealing, as it should have been.

Posted by Daniel K

7:17 PM, Apr 18, 2008

The debate can be watched here:

Posted by LD

10:54 PM, Apr 18, 2008

It's about time Obama was grilled the same way Hillary was being grilled for months. The press, who has elevated Obama to messiah status, is of course incensed. Just remember that if Obama is the eventual candidate, he will be facing a much tougher time against the Repulican attack machinery.

Posted by p

10:37 AM, Apr 19, 2008

People, wake up! Politician LIE all the time. That's what they do best. If Sen. Obama can't handle questions about his relationship with Wright and Ayers then he's not ready for prime time.

Politicians are first and foremost: polticians, be they Republican or Democrat. They are stealing from us and we can't see it because they blind us with nonsense issues. Who cares if Sen. Obama is a anti-Semite and Afro-centric, who cares if Sen. Clinton is on all sides of every issue at the same time, they're politicians! That's what they do!

Posted by JimD

12:01 AM, Apr 20, 2008

Good God, how low can we go. ABC gave us prime-time trash. No real issues were discussed, just the petty crap that are now dominating this way too long nomination process. I don't blame George, who has one of the better Sunday morning shows and is actually a very good interviewer.. This was an ABC management-crafted disaster made for the "hot-topic" talk radio tribe. Very disappointing.

Posted by carl

9:09 PM, Apr 20, 2008

At the ABC website on the debate story, there is a message board for responses. Almost all of the posts are critical of ABC but a huge number of critical posts are being continuously deleted. As far as I can tell they leave all pro-ABC posts, and they also leave posts that are critical but stupid, with silly remarks and spelling errors. Certain criticisms will get a post erased in seconds: comparing ABC's tactics in the debate to Fox News, talking about Gibson's faults as a journalist, and especially saying that Stephanopolous favors Clinton. Total censorship for those posts at ABC--it's hilarious and pathetic.

Posted by Bothsides

8:05 AM, Apr 21, 2008

I too thought they didn't focus enough on the issues, however, they didn't totally ignore them. For instance, both candidates made it clear that they will be raising the capital gains tax, and also on any family making $200 -$250K. I couldn't believe Gibson noted not once, but twice to HRC that when taxes go up revenue goes down and when taxes go down revenue goes up, HRC just shrugged it off and obviously will just do what the left always does, take more of your hard earned dollars to buy votes with their social programs.

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