I donated to Barack Obama's campaign today, in part because of the race the candidate has run, but mostly I donated because of last night. I donated today because last night represented the most embarrassing manifestation of what has rapidly become - thanks to the petty, high school tactics of the mainstream media and, in no small part, to the Clinton campaign - a race to the bottom. A race that has allowed well-heeled members of the media to sidestep the issues facing actual, reality-based Americans and instead focus on the latest "gotcha" attack, last night's exemplar being a particularly idiotic line of questioning inspired, in part, by right-wing water-carriers like Sean Hannity.
It's bad when you've got Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos doing battle to see who could ask - or introduce via video - the dumbest set of questions seen so far in this campaign. Hey, guys, when you get the privilege of interviewing the next president about the most pressing issues facing everyday Americans, let me clue you in on something: Everything you talked about last night for the first 40 or so minutes will never scratch the Top 100 of those issues. Questions about "bitter", about flag pins, about pastors, about loose acquaintances aren't important. The economy is. Getting out of Iraq is. Providing healthcare for all Americans is. This isn't a game. You shouldn't be happy with what you did, just like some moron shouldn't be happy about what he just left in the toilet.
Leaving Charlie and George, who just can't help it, alone for a moment, let me address someone who can - Hillary Clinton. Welcome to the absolute bottom of the barrel, Senator. Here's a tip: When you help engage in the sort of distracting, tabloid-style attacks that plagued - to your often-vocal dismay - your husband's administration, you become no better than those slinging the mud. I don't care whether or not the Republicans will resort to gutter politics this fall; I know they will. What's up to you is whether or not you will. The answer, only reinforced last night, is clear. You will. And you have.
Hiding behind the excuse that "the Republicans will do it later" isn't a justification for doing it yourself now. Watching Clinton, who managed to hit some soft notes for this hardened Obama supporter last night and who seemed at first to be willing to rise above, play tag-team, low-rent attack machine with Gibson and Stephanopoulos was sad to see for someone who had a great deal of respect and admiration for the former First Lady. I've seen her speak twice, during the 1992 and 1996 race, and she was a brilliant, forward-thinking leader. Fast-forward to last night, when she seemed all-too-happy to join in the needless distraction. I'm left to think she either believes what she said or is otherwise simply desperate to win the nomination. Times have most certainly changed.
It's clear there are two campaigns being waged right now: The real one facing real Americans. And the fake one, the game, being played purely for the entertainment of the Beltway insider set. Thanks for the latter, we're unable to take part in the former. But we're smarter than that, no matter what the insiders think. It's a shame they're not giving you the credit for being willing to rise above. Something, clearly, they're unable to do. The question pestering me most of late has been "At what cost?" At what cost to the party is Clinton willing to take the nomination? At what cost are we willing to take part in the distractions? At what cost are the media willing to trade access and influence for honesty and integrity? The sooner we end up on the right side of those questions, the sooner we can focus on the fall and taking this country back.
Last night wasn't a great night for America. Last night we saw the ugliness that has sullied what should be a campaign about the issues. Last night two seemingly capable anchors did John McCain's dirty work for him. But last night was last night. And today is new. Today is fresh. Today we begin again. And I started today by donating to Barack Obama, because while today is important, tomorrow is crucial.