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In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/17/AR2008041700013_pf.html In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC By Tom Shales Thursday, April 17,
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 17 5:19 PM
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      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/17/AR2008041700013_pf.html

      In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC

      By Tom Shales
      Thursday, April 17, 2008; C01

      When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another
      televised Democratic candidates' debate last night, it
      was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential
      election. It was another step downward for network
      news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the
      debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable
      anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos,
      turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

      For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour,
      commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos
      dwelled 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.

      The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did
      better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also,
      neither of those cable networks, if memory serves,
      rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into
      the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny,
      token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news
      is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by
      being competent.

      Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over
      glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking
      prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a
      spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he
      addressed an early question, about whether each would
      be willing to serve as the other's running mate, "to
      both of you," which is simple ineptitude or bad
      manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate
      should answer first. When, understandably, both waited
      politely for the other to talk, Gibson said snidely,
      "Don't all speak at once."

      For that matter, the running-mate question that Gibson
      made such a big deal over was decidedly not a big deal
      -- especially since Wolf Blitzer asked it during a
      previous debate televised and produced by CNN.

      The boyish Stephanopoulos, who has done wonders with
      the network's Sunday morning hour, "This Week" (as,
      indeed, has Gibson with the nightly "World News"),
      looked like an overly ambitious intern helping out at
      a subcommittee hearing, digging through notes for
      something smart-alecky and slimy. He came up with such
      tired tripe as a charge that Obama once associated
      with a nutty bomb-throwing anarchist. That was "40
      years ago, when I was 8 years old," Obama said with
      exasperation.

      Obama was right on the money when he complained about
      the campaign being bogged down in media-driven
      inanities and obsessiveness over any misstatement a
      candidate might make along the way, whether in a
      speech or while being eavesdropped upon by the
      opposition. The tactic has been to "take one statement
      and beat it to death," he said.

      No sooner was that said than Gibson brought up, yet
      again, the controversial ravings of the pastor at a
      church attended by Obama. "Charlie, I've discussed
      this," he said, and indeed he has, ad infinitum. If he
      tried to avoid repeating himself when clarifying his
      position, the networks would accuse him of changing
      his story, or changing his tune, or some other
      baloney.

      This is precisely what has happened with widely
      reported comments that Obama made about working-class
      people "clinging" to religion and guns during these
      times of cynicism about their federal government.

      "It's not the first time I made a misstatement that
      was mangled up, and it won't be the last," said Obama,
      with refreshing candor. But candor is dangerous in a
      national campaign, what with network newsniks waiting
      for mistakes or foul-ups like dogs panting for treats
      after performing a trick. The networks' trick is
      covering an election with as little emphasis on issues
      as possible, then blaming everyone else for failing to
      focus on "the issues."

      Some news may have come out of the debate (ABC News
      will pretend it did a great job on today's edition of
      its soppy, soap-operatic "Good Morning America").
      Asked point-blank if she thought Obama could defeat
      presumptive Republican contender John McCain in the
      general election, Clinton said, "Yes, yes, yes," in
      apparent contrast to previous remarks in which she
      reportedly told other Democrats that Obama could never
      win. And in turn, Obama said that Clinton could
      "absolutely" win against McCain.

      To this observer, ABC's coverage seemed slanted
      against Obama. The director cut several times to
      reaction shots of such Clinton supporters as her
      daughter, Chelsea, who sat in the audience at the
      Kimmel Theater in Philly's National Constitution
      Center. Obama supporters did not get equal screen
      time, giving the impression that there weren't any in
      the hall. The director also clumsily chose to pan the
      audience at the very start of the debate, when the
      candidates made their opening statements, so Obama and
      Clinton were barely seen before the first commercial
      break.

      At the end, Gibson pompously thanked the candidates --
      or was he really patting himself on the back? -- for
      "what I think has been a fascinating debate." He's
      entitled to his opinion, but the most fascinating
      aspect was waiting to see how low he and
      Stephanopoulos would go, and then being appalled at
      the answer.
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      Great post, Greg! Greg Cannon wrote: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/17/AR2008041700013_pf.html
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 17 8:04 PM
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        Great post, Greg!

        Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...> wrote:
        http://www.washingt onpost.com/ wp-dyn/content/ article/2008/ 04/17/AR20080417 00013_pf. html

        In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC

        By Tom Shales
        Thursday, April 17, 2008; C01

        When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another
        televised Democratic candidates' debate last night, it
        was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential
        election. It was another step downward for network
        news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the
        debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable
        anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos,
        turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

        For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour,
        commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos
        dwelled 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.

        The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did
        better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also,
        neither of those cable networks, if memory serves,
        rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into
        the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny,
        token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news
        is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by
        being competent.

        Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over
        glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking
        prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a
        spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he
        addressed an early question, about whether each would
        be willing to serve as the other's running mate, "to
        both of you," which is simple ineptitude or bad
        manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate
        should answer first. When, understandably, both waited
        politely for the other to talk, Gibson said snidely,
        "Don't all speak at once."

        For that matter, the running-mate question that Gibson
        made such a big deal over was decidedly not a big deal
        -- especially since Wolf Blitzer asked it during a
        previous debate televised and produced by CNN.

        The boyish Stephanopoulos, who has done wonders with
        the network's Sunday morning hour, "This Week" (as,
        indeed, has Gibson with the nightly "World News"),
        looked like an overly ambitious intern helping out at
        a subcommittee hearing, digging through notes for
        something smart-alecky and slimy. He came up with such
        tired tripe as a charge that Obama once associated
        with a nutty bomb-throwing anarchist. That was "40
        years ago, when I was 8 years old," Obama said with
        exasperation.

        Obama was right on the money when he complained about
        the campaign being bogged down in media-driven
        inanities and obsessiveness over any misstatement a
        candidate might make along the way, whether in a
        speech or while being eavesdropped upon by the
        opposition. The tactic has been to "take one statement
        and beat it to death," he said.

        No sooner was that said than Gibson brought up, yet
        again, the controversial ravings of the pastor at a
        church attended by Obama. "Charlie, I've discussed
        this," he said, and indeed he has, ad infinitum. If he
        tried to avoid repeating himself when clarifying his
        position, the networks would accuse him of changing
        his story, or changing his tune, or some other
        baloney.

        This is precisely what has happened with widely
        reported comments that Obama made about working-class
        people "clinging" to religion and guns during these
        times of cynicism about their federal government.

        "It's not the first time I made a misstatement that
        was mangled up, and it won't be the last," said Obama,
        with refreshing candor. But candor is dangerous in a
        national campaign, what with network newsniks waiting
        for mistakes or foul-ups like dogs panting for treats
        after performing a trick. The networks' trick is
        covering an election with as little emphasis on issues
        as possible, then blaming everyone else for failing to
        focus on "the issues."

        Some news may have come out of the debate (ABC News
        will pretend it did a great job on today's edition of
        its soppy, soap-operatic "Good Morning America").
        Asked point-blank if she thought Obama could defeat
        presumptive Republican contender John McCain in the
        general election, Clinton said, "Yes, yes, yes," in
        apparent contrast to previous remarks in which she
        reportedly told other Democrats that Obama could never
        win. And in turn, Obama said that Clinton could
        "absolutely" win against McCain.

        To this observer, ABC's coverage seemed slanted
        against Obama. The director cut several times to
        reaction shots of such Clinton supporters as her
        daughter, Chelsea, who sat in the audience at the
        Kimmel Theater in Philly's National Constitution
        Center. Obama supporters did not get equal screen
        time, giving the impression that there weren't any in
        the hall. The director also clumsily chose to pan the
        audience at the very start of the debate, when the
        candidates made their opening statements, so Obama and
        Clinton were barely seen before the first commercial
        break.

        At the end, Gibson pompously thanked the candidates --
        or was he really patting himself on the back? -- for
        "what I think has been a fascinating debate." He's
        entitled to his opinion, but the most fascinating
        aspect was waiting to see how low he and
        Stephanopoulos would go, and then being appalled at
        the answer.

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