ABC’s meaningless presidential debate

April 17, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More

Tom Shales of the Washington Post describes the rot that our national media has become:

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. . .

Obama was right on the money when he complained about the campaign being bogged down in media-driven inanities and obsessiveness over any misstatement a candidate might make along the way, whether in a speech or while being eavesdropped upon by the opposition. The tactic has been to “take one statement and beat it to death,” he said.


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    [T]GOP has been able to pervert our political process this way only because of the indispensable aid of the establishment media, which reflexively views the political landscape through the lens of this GOP-generated mythology. . . . Catty attacks are cheap and easy to cover, and require few resources and even less critical thought to convey. Even the shallowest and most slothful reporters are able to dish about the Clintons' marital problems or how Barack Obama looks in a bathing suit.

    Herd behavior, peer pressure, and desperation for attention fuel this lowly process further. . . Cheap gossip and vapid chatter thus become the primary currency of our coddled Beltway media stars.

    And, perhaps most significantly of all, the pressures created by the GOP smear machine perfectly re-create the social dynamic of high school and college, where one can reap the rewards of being favored as the popular jock and cheerleader or relegated to the realm of the losers and nerds. It's so much more fun and personally fulfilling to be liked and flattered by the triumphant War President — the "Commander-in-Chief" prancing around in "victory" on an aircraft carrier — while cackling at the weak, boring loser in the windsurfing tights, or the earnest nerd hilariously droning on about telecom amnesty and surveillance lawbreaking.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    It confounds logic that, on one hand, Senator Obama is repeatedly asked to explain why rural America is bitter, while, on the other hand, his qualifications for the presidency are being evaluated based on his goddamn bowling skills. Seriously, what the hell is going on here? The Bush Republicans are responsible for perhaps the worst economic crisis since World War II. They're responsible for a $3 trillion occupation and decades of future blowback. They're responsible for selling our sovereignty to foreign governments. They're responsible for trampling our liberty and national character. And there was Senator McCain on Hardball the other night talking about war in Iran, while pledging to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the super rich. Both of which would make matters far, far worse.

    Meanwhile, how are we evaluating the would-be Democratic nominee? Based on orange juice, of course. Why? Because the Republicans say so.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Perhaps the problem here is that the reporters are either getting pressure from above to create pabulum, or, in the case of younger reporters, care nothing for real issues and were hired because these are the types of interviews they prefer to do. Also, as has been mentioned above, television newsrooms have traditionally been money-losers for the networks, so funding cuts have undoubtedly slashed both the research staffs and quality of the reporters — the end result being the sewage we see on television today. What is frightening about ABC's "debate" is that these two moderators are (or, were) highly respected reporters. If *they* produce such garbage, there isn't much hope for the rest.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    We, the undersigned, deplore the conduct of ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson at the Democratic Presidential debate on April 16. The debate was a revolting descent into tabloid journalism and a gross disservice to Americans concerned about the great issues facing the nation and the world. This is not the first Democratic or Republican presidential debate to emphasize gotcha questions over real discussion. However, it is, so far, the worst.

    [Excerpt from an open letter by numerous journalists to ABC condemning the April 16, 2008 "debate"

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