The outrage continues to swirl around ABC News and its travesty of a mockery of a sham of a presidential debate here in Philadelphia last night. Meanwhile, this post over on Philadelphia Will Do raised my curiosity over something that seemed a footnote at the time, as I was focusing my fire on the way that Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were misconducting the debate.
It concerned the videotape question that was posed by the woman at top, Nash McCabe of Latrobe, Pa. Here's what she asked:
As I watched her question, what I wondered -- and I imagine many other viewers wondered as well -- was where on earth did ABC find this representative of my home state. As a journalist, I kind of assumed that ABC sent a film crew to western Pa., and then culled the most provocative questions from the people that they found. Silly me. In fact, ABC News found Nash McCabe the old-fashioned way -- they read about her, and her thing with the American flag, in the New York Times earlier this month:
So Nash McCabe wasn't located at random at all. Instead, someone at ABC News decided that they wanted to go after Obama on the patriotism issue, and they actively sought a Pennsylvanian who they knew wanted to bring it up. I assume they thought it would sound better if "a typical voter" asked the question instead of Charlie Gibson. "You see, we're only raising the issue the voters really care about," they can claim.
Now, remember the other issue that's been bandied about for the last week, about what's really happening in small towns like Latrobe, Pa., and whether voters are "bitter" or "frustrated," as Obama said in the debate last night, and whether economic anxiety is driving other issues that serve as political diversions. Latrobe is a model city for that breed of frustration -- as the Times noted in its article:
Today, McClatchy Newspapers did a follow-up story on Nash McCabe, and it's clear that there's more going on in this woman's life than lapel pins:
Read the whole story -- it's fascinating and heartbreaking, and will cause you to reflect some more on the "bitter" Pennsylvania controversial. But there's one more thing about Nash McCabe and insertion into our national political dialogue, and that is the most bizarre twist of all.
That original New York Times article (by a former Newsday colleague, Paul Vitello), the one that started this whole ball rolling. It wasn't really about flag pins or patriotism.
It was about race.
Here's the headline over the picture of Nash McCabe: "In Ex-Steel City, Voters Deny Race Plays a Role."
Vitello writes that he found little support for Obama in Latrobe, and crux of his article is this:
So, the New York Times is basically stating that many voters are finding odd or vague reasons not to support a candidate who president who happens to be black. And without any thought to the subtext, ABC News plucked one of those reasons and brought it to the center stage of democracy.
To be extra clear, none of this is a criticism of Nash McCabe -- my heart goes out to her and her husband, and there is no evidence here that her views on Obama and the flag, which I personally think are misguided, are racially motivated.
Instead, it is yet another indictment of ABC News, which was eager to act is if there's no racial subtext to this election, other than its question about affirmative action for Obama's "affluent African-American daughters." Obama's been under fire for the last week for suggesting that Rust Belt voters -- facing a swirl of feelings about the economy and "people who don't look like them" -- are wooed by wedge issues.
ABC's contribution to that discussion: Wooing voters with wedge issues.