ABC missed chance for relevancy
The most widely watched presidential debate pursued trivial matters.
THE top issues on voters' minds are the economy and the war in Iraq, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC news poll. Too bad the television half of that media partnership didn't pay attention to the numbers when the network put together initial topics for its debate between Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Instead, with 10.7 million viewers tuning in -- the most for a debate for the 2008 election -- moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos squandered an opportunity for intelligent discussion by hitting the candidates with trivial matters.
The network stars pummeled Obama on his association with a '60s radical who is now a respected college professor and attempted to embarrass Clinton by regurgitating her inaccurate descriptions of coming under fire during a visit to Bosnia.
They then turned to the all-important subject of flag lapel pins. Perhaps too timid themselves to tackle the absurd linking of jewelry to patriotism, they used a surrogate to raise the question, a woman ABC tracked down after she was quoted in the New York Times saying she wouldn't vote for someone who didn't wear a flag pin.
The debate eventually addressed the economy and war, but judging from the slew of criticism the network received, many viewers weren't pleased.
Stephanopoulos said the goal was to see which candidates could withstand a harsh campaign against John McCain. The network's goal should have been to help voters responsibly choose the best person to be president.
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