Hillzilla vs Obambi (Round 107): Clinton vs Obama debate reactions

April 17, 2008 at 7:47 am | Posted in Barack Obama, Democratic Party Presidential Primary, U.S. Politics | Leave a comment
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So you thought you’d seen this campaign at its nastiest? That you’d seen the media at its most insipid and so obsessed trivialities that they forget the issues that actually affect people’s lives? Ah, my poor, squeamish, gunshy readers, you haven’t seen the worst of it. On the same day that Gordon Brown praised American television and its contribution to ‘culture’, today the viewers of the ABC Democratic Primary debate were subjected to a nasty clusterfuck of a contest that reveals just how destructive, depressing & alienating the media’s coverage of politics can be for ordinary people.

Anyway, here’s how the blogs reacted:

Crooked Timber:

So I’m about 50 minutes into the ABC Pennsylvania debate, and it’s like its being run by some crazed syndicate of Newsmax, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh – stupid talking point question after stupid talking point question, and so far not even a hint of interest in e.g. actual policy debates . All I need is for the moderators to ask either the ‘So, Barack Hussein Osama, do you want to tell the American people about what you REALLY learned in the madrassa,’ or ‘Hillary Clinton, many Americans are concerned that you are secretly a lesbian? What do you have to say to them?’ question and I score the full house. I mean, what the fuck?

Matthew Yglesias:

I had thought the Clinton campaign couldn’t sink any lower, but thus far she’s really just been giving us the full GOP. Listening to her talk about Barack Obama is like reading a Weekly Standard blog post. The lame excuse that she’s making this and that outrageous smear because the Republicans will do it later is pathetic. Maybe they will. But she’s the one doing it now.

Josh Marshall:

I’ll stipulate, to get it out of the way, that the moderators, mainly Charlie Gibson, but not exclusively, were awful. And apparently I missed the worst of it in the first half hour. And not simply for Obama, who probably got the worst of it, but for Hillary too. In a debate it’s not out of the ordinary to have a couple gotcha type questions. But this seemed to be almost all that.

Setting that aside though, on the questions that touched in some way on policy — taxes for instance — Obama looked weary and had what I can only think to compare to the look of a staggering boxer. The discussion of the capital gains tax was a painful example. Most of what Charlie Gibson said was complete nonsense and there were fairly clear, good responses. But Obama stumbled through them.

Andrew Sullivan:

It was a lifeless, exhausted, drained and dreary Obama we saw tonight. I’ve seen it before when he is tired, but this was his worst performance yet on national television. He seemed crushed and unable to react. This is big-time politics and he’s up against the Clinton wood-chipper. But there is no disguising the fact that he wilted, painfully. Clinton has exposed herself in this campaign as one of the worst shells of a cynical pol in American politics. She doesn’t just return us to the Morris-Rove era, she represents a new height for it. If she somehow wins, it will be a triumph of the old politics in an age when that is exactly what this country cannot afford. But Obama has also shown a failure to be resilient in this grueling process. In some ways, I’m glad. No normal reasonable person subjected to the series of attacks on his integrity, faith, patriotism, decency and honesty would not wilt. And we need a normal reasonable person in the White House again. But this is still the arena we have. It is what it is. ABC News is what it is. The MSM knows no other way. Obama has to survive and even thrive under this assault if he is to win. He failed tonight in a big way.


I think Obama did fine tonight.  Generally Clinton has performed best in debates, but as we first saw in the Texas debate, Obama appears to perform better one-on-one.  I especially liked how he refused to get lured in to Charles Gibson’s conservative frames, and I like how he dismissed many of Clinton’s attacks on him as avoiding the substantive issues and hypocritical, as when he pointed out that Bill Clinton pardoned members of the Weather Underground.  

But I don’t want Hillary Clinton on the stage with him while he fends off bullshit like what was tossed at him tonight.  I want him to be able to pivot around and use the questions—accusations in most cases—against John McCain.  I want John McCain to have to fend off Obama’s counterpunches, not a Democratic Senator from New York.

Greg Mitchell:

In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues had to wait for their few moments in the sun as Obama was pressed to explain his recent “bitter” gaffe and relationship with Rev. Wright (seemingly a dead issue) and not wearing a flag pin while Clinton had to answer again for her Bosnia trip exaggerations.

On the strength of this, I’m pretty delighted to have missed it. I’ve never been a fan of horror films


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