Thursday, April 17, 2008

Li'l George and Uncle Charlie


I generally don't comment on things unless I have something interesting to say (well, that's my opinion), and I have nothing novel to add to what other people have already written about tonight's Democratic debate. But sometimes you see something so amazing that you cannot help but tossing in the two cents (or tossing the cookies).

I'm not going to talk about who won or lost; each candidate had some strong moments, each had somewhat awkward ones. I already am looking at them through a prism of preference, so I'm probably not going to be able to be totally objective.

It's the coverage and the questioning that seems to me to have been incontrovertibly appalling. First of all, what's with Chelsea Clinton being lit like Glenn Close in The Natural. The rest of the audience looked as if it was about 20 feet below the ocean in dark blue-green tones. But there was a key light on Chelsea, and the director went to a shot of her quite often. Leaving aside the question of her photogenicity, it seems an odd choice to focus on the erstwhile First Daughter so much.

More important was the questioning by ABC "journalists" Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. (Actually, maybe we can explain the Chelsea thing; Charlie and Chelsea both went to the Sidwell Friends School, so the Chelsea show was just a shout-out from one alum to another.)

Perhaps my favorite moment was when Charlie admitted that Hillary hadn't gotten enough time, this after the boys had spent most of the time on Barack's statements and associations ("Is it true, Senator Obama, that you have driven by Al Capone's residence? Doesn't that show a lack of judgment on your part?").

This is a country, as I have stated before, with profound challenges. I know it's way too much to ask to think that these well-paid pundits could ask candidates for the office of the leader of the free world anything significant, like how Americans can maintain their standing in the world when low-cost providers can compete for jobs and products. Or how we will react when one of our new world friends tries to exercise their clout by, say, invading Taiwan, threatening us with, "no toys for Christmas."

But I do expect more that half of two hours to be devoted to an approximation of real issues, rather than trying to one-up Tim Russert in the "gotcha" game. People in Pennsylvania, and across this country, have real problems, and it doesn't matter what Hillary said about Bosnia, or whether Barack wears a flag pin, or whether Barack has sat on a board with a former member of the Weather Underground. Even if these issues do speak to character, hey, as they say in court, "asked and answered." I have my reservations about Hillary's truthfulness - the Bosnia story is just plain weird - but we gain nothing by hearing yet another rehash of her justifications.

You might as well let Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter host one of these things, or maybe Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. ABC would get bigger ratings, the questions wouldn't be more inane, and at least the network could preserve some dignity by having a fallback position ("we won't make the mistake of having Ms. Spears moderate again, but we still have respected journalist Charles Gibson in the wings"). Horrible, simply horrible.

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