Thirty six minutes into the debate, my wife says I can turn on the Red Sox game. "They are not asking them anything about anything that matters," she says.
We've revisted bitter. We've gone back to Bosnia. We've dragged Rev. Wright back up onto the podium. We've mis-spent this debate by allowing Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions that skirt what in my mind is what we need to know now.
What would they do about the mess they'd inherit? The war. Health care. The economy. Stupid.
Morning after update. Looks like the inanity went on for 52 minutes. Tom Shales in the Washington Post argued that the 2-hour commercials-crammed debate began with Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelling:
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.
He called the broadcast "shoddy and despicable."
Downstairs at Attytood, Will Bunch wrote an open letter to the network anchors once he got his hands to stop shaking in anger:
You disgraced my profession of journalism, and, by association, me and a lot of hard-working colleagues who do still try to ferret out the truth, rather than worry about who can give us the best deal on our capital gains taxes. But it's even worse than that. By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself.
Meanwhile vox pop is going strong at ABC.com, where 12,560 people had commented by 10:10 a.m. A sampling:
With Life & Death issues on the table for this election ABC thinks Flag Pins, 60's radicals, Elitism, and religion are the main issues.. Ever wonder why Network News is losing market share? People without Health Insurance Die, Soldiers in Iraq die, Food cost have risen 11% in a month, Food Riots in Haiti, What was George thinking? Gas Prices at my filling station have risen 6 cents a week for the last 3 months and refiners are cutting production? Please tell me that there was something besides Lies about Bosnia that are relevant to me! Dang it!! I'm sinking with rising prices a falling dollar, and everything I own is worth less today than it was yesterday.. Please Tell me that you could have found something to talk about besides God Guns and Israel..
Did anyone like the debate? Over at the National Review, Stephen Spruiell did. He said issues like the environment, interrogation and health care were properly shunned.
ABC's debate was a success because it steered clear of issues like these, i.e. issues on which the candidates mostly agree. How many times have we heard Clinton and Obama argue endlessly over what amounts to a very minor difference in their health-care plans?