Debatable Success


ABC’s prime time debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was a laudable effort marred by too many commercials and too much emphasis on "gotcha" moments that never really materialized.

The tag team of Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos appeared to gang up on Senator Obama, but that was partly because he was the subject of the juiciest questions given his "bittergate" gaffe and questions about his relationships to his fiery pastor and a former 60’s radical.

Not asking questions about those would have appeared to be avoiding the obvious, I think, but to front load the debate with them made it seem more imade-for-TV nquisition than exchange at a time when the media is roundly criticized for covering the stumbles and missteps of the horse race rather than the issues that will be more important in the long run.

The Washington Post’s Tom Shales went so far as to call Gibson’s and Stephanopoulos’ handling of the debate "shoddy" and "despicable," a jarringly harsh assessment in my assessment, but one that was likely drawing a lot of eyeballs after it was posted on the front page of Drudge

I was struck by the number of commercials–and a plug for Stephanopoulos’ This Week show–that chopped up the debate. I was particularly frustrated by ABC’s cut to a plug for Verizon seconds after the debate ended. It was that moment when much can be gleaned by how the candidates interact. Do they shake hands cooly; touch an elbow; smile; turn quickly to their supporters? All of that was lost in the rush to sell and promote.

Of course, it may have been ABC’s only chance to take a bite out of American Idol, whose vote-off show–we said goodbye to eye candy Kristy Lee Cook-was on opposite the debate’s second hour. And speaking of horse races, Idol should launch a campaign to get that guy to give Kristy her horse back, or at least pony up enough money to make it worth his while.

But I digress.

ABC should be applauded for airing a two-hour prime time debate for whatever reason, but next time lets see a little more of the candidates and a little less of the network..