Theoretically having a debate on a major network as opposed to cable might mean having a better debate. It certainly did not turn out that way. Looking around the blogosphere there is disagreement as to who won but most agree that the questions were horrible. Tapped writes that the questions were a disgrace. Greg Mitchell calls it a shameful night for the U.S. media. It seemed like every ridiculous bit of slime being spread the last several weeks was discussed, ranging from flag pins to associations with 60′s radicals to Obama’s bitterness statement.
Deciding upon who wins depends largely upon how you see these questions. While Clinton was asked about her Bosnia gaffe, the bulk of the nonsense questions involved Obama. This could be seen as a negative for Obama with him being placed on the defensive. I saw the major difference between the two being that Hillary Clinton tried to use the slime to her benefit. In contrast, Obama clearly would have preferred that such nonsense be kept out of presidential debates, and even defended Clinton on Bosnia.
The debate contained far too little of substance, but it did reveal more about the character of the two candidates. Judging the debate in this manner Clinton failed badly. Once again this debate demonstrated that the choice is a continuation of the same old Bush/Rove/Clinton style dirty politics or a change to politics of substance.
What really matters after debates is the general reaction, not my opinion. On the one hand, public opinion is partially determined by the media, and I fear that the media lacks the ability to recognize how terrible the questions were. Coverage based upon showing Obama on the defensive would not look favorable.
I remain hopeful that the American people are smarter than this and are growing tired of choosing presidents based upon who can be discredited with the most negative slime. If the American voters see it this way, the next president will be either Barack Obama or John McCain. The debate once again made it clear that Hillary Clinton lacks the integrity and character necessary to be taken seriously as a president, and has far more in common with George Bush than any of the other candidates remaining in the race.
Update: If it seemed like the questions were coming from the lunatic right as opposed to rational journalists, there’s a good reason for this. George Stephanopoulos got his advice regarding the types of questions to ask from Sean Hannity. Of course Hillary Clinton remains on the same page as the far right, as I’ve noted many times in previous posts.