Brian Fitzpatrick

Take cover, ABC! Incoming!

“[Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos] disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself.” – Will Bunch, Philadelphia Daily News

“Perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years.” – Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher

“… all the substance of a Beavis and Butt-Head marathon.” – Walter Shapiro, Salon

“… petty, shallow, process-obsessed…utterly divorced from the actual issues that Americans want to talk about.” – Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic

“…Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos turned in shoddy, despicable performances.” – Tom Shales, The Washington Post

What could ABC’s Democratic presidential debate moderators possibly have done to elicit such vitriol from the elite liberal media?

Stabbing the sacred cows, that’s what. Leftwingers in the media and the blogosphere are furious that during Wednesday’s debate, the ABC journalists had the effrontery to ask Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton some tough character, values and judgment questions the candidates would rather not answer.

Obama was forced to explain why he refuses to wear the American flag in his lapel, why he associates with former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers, why he associates with America-hating, racist pastor Jeremiah Wright, and what he meant when he told a San Francisco audience that small-town Americans “cling to” guns and religion. Clinton was forced to address the widespread public perception that she is dishonest, based on her misrepresentation of her visit to Bosnia.

This was no “meaningless inquisition about loose semantics and questionable acquaintances,” as Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote today. By devoting the first half of the evening to character questions, Gibson and Stephanopoulos improved the quality of the presidential debates.

Critics are saying ABC should have focused on the “issues,” by which they mean Clinton’s and Obama’s policy proposals. Of course the policy proposals are important. That’s why ABC devoted the second half of the debate to them. But character, values and judgment ought to outweigh the “issues” when we’re electing a president.

For one thing, the personal character of a president affects his job performance and the moral example he sets for the nation. For example, Bill Clinton – enough said.

Brian Fitzpatrick

Brian Fitzpatrick, a writer, editor, and commentator on political and cultural issues, is the Senior Editor at Media Research Center’s Culture & Media Institute.

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