Update: I know this is the millionth diary about the debate today, but I was just compelled to write about it. I see the "complaint campaign" as important to the Democrats in the fall. Why? If we fight an issues-based campaign, it will benefit Democrats who definitely have the issues on their side. McSame will only win by distracting us with this patriotism bullshit. By creating a backlash now against frivolous debates now, we are adding a major negative to any decision by the moderators to ask such ridiculous questions in the fall.
I watched the Democratic debate last night and was embarrassed for ABC. I can understand sending one question to each candidate about electability issues -- Obama, how do you respond to criticism that you aren't patriotic? or Clinton, how do you respond to criticism that you are dishonest? -- but the debate really crossed the line by spending an entire hour asking each candidate repeatedly about specific, isolated and meaningless gaffes.
As a voter, and I know I'm not alone here, I care about issues like the Bear Sterns bailout, gigantic ice shelfs breaking off in the arctic, and the future of the U.N, to name a few. However, due to the overwhelming focus on meta-campaign issues, real policy issues like those mentioned above were expelled from the conversation. How is this justified?
Is it because these issues will be brought up in the general election, so we should air them now? Well here's a newsflash: bittergate, wrightgate, and bosniagate only became issues because the media, eating out of the hands of strategists from the campaigns, relentlessly reported these issues to death despite their relative irrelevance. In case one believes these issues are relevant, one can be disproven simply by looking at the poll after poll showing little movement after these heavily-reported gaffes.
So here's my proposal: instead of playing "gotcha" by mentioning some professor who sat on a charitable board with a candidate (who also happened to say some radical things in the 1960's when said candidate was a child), why don't you play "gotcha" by bringing up scholarly journal articles that challenge the candidates position on the issues? Or by more frequently mentioning statistics -- like returns from the capital gains tax -- that challenge candidate positions? Then we could see how thoughtful and articulate the candidates are, in an exciting format, without exposing the audience to the tabloid garbage that took place last night.