Monday, April 21, 2008

John Fund: ABC did the debate right

In his WSJ column today, John Fund again demonstrates why he’s one of the best reporters in America. He takes on the liberal/leftist MSMers who’ve been sliming George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson for daring to ask Sen. Obama questions that were more then just restatements of Obama’s talking points.

Fund leaves no doubt as to why the questions that have upset Obama’s media flacks needed to be asked, and why Obama needs to answer them.

Fund begins:

George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson of ABC News weren't just criticized for their tough questioning of Barack Obama during last week's Democratic debate. They were flayed.

Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker called their approach "something akin to a federal crime." Tom Shales, the Washington Post's TV critic, said the ABC duo turned in "shoddy and despicable performances." Walter Shapiro of Salon magazine said the debate had "all the substance of a Beavis and Butt-head marathon."

Most of the media mauling consisted of anger that the ABC moderators brought up a series of issues that had surrounded Mr. Obama since the last Democratic debate, a long seven weeks ago.

They included his remarks that "bitter" Pennsylvania voters "cling" to religion, guns and "antipathy toward people who aren't them" and his relationships with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayres, an unrepentant former member of the bomb-planting Weather Underground group. Mrs. Clinton also came under some fire over her made-up story of coming under sniper fire in Bosnia.

According to liberal journalists, all these topics are irrelevant. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo said they were "frivolous items . . . that presumed the correctness of Republican agenda items." Mr. Obama agreed, dismissing the items brought up by ABC as "manufactured issues." …
Yes, and the NY Times' Frank Rich said bringing up Sen. Obama’s long and close relationship with Rev. Wright was “guilt by association McCarthyism.”

Folks, suppose a candidate for a major party's presidential nomination had a pastor who for years had attacked gays from the pulpit, ranted and condemned “gay-America,” and shouted “God damn gays." And suppose the candidate had developed a close friendship with that pastor, selected him to officiate at his wedding, and brought his children to the pastor’s church for religious instruction.

Do you think Hertzberg, Shales, Rich and the rest would be attacking Stephanopoulos and Gibson for asking the candidate about his relationship with the pastor?

Further along Fund provides some information Hertsberg, Shales and other Obama supporters aren’t telling their readers:
As for the debate focusing on issues Republicans are likely to bring up this fall, I don't recall any major media vitriol directed at the moderators of several GOP primary debates that featured questions skewed towards left-wing presumptions. Whether or not candidates believe in the theory of evolution hasn't been a campaign issue this year, but candidates were asked in one MSNBC debate to raise their hands if they supported it.

Similarly, in the infamous Des Moines Register debate of last December, moderator Carolyn Washburn asked the candidates to raise their hands if they thought global warming was caused by humans.

When Fred Thompson refused to comply with her demand for a show of hands, asking instead for a minute to explain his position, he was turned down. Later, he suggested that the GOP candidates get together for a substantive round-table discussion in which they – and not journalists – would set the agenda. He was roundly criticized in the media for such effrontery. At least Messrs. Gibson and Stephanopoulos didn't treat the Democratic candidates like schoolchildren.

Given that Mrs. Clinton has been subjected to far tougher treatment than Mr. Obama in many debates, the sudden fury directed at ABC is best explained as anger that a prosecutorial tone was suddenly directed at a media darling.

John Harris and Jim VandeHei of conclude that the heat directed at ABC News over its debate "is the clearest evidence yet that the Clintonites are fundamentally correct in their complaint that [their candidate] has been flying throughout this campaign into a headwind of media favoritism for Obama." …
Harris and VandeHei have it right.

Here’s Funds wrap:
But Mr. Obama, who sports the most liberal voting record of any senator according to the nonpartisan National Journal, has avoided much criticism of that record by implying that any conventional critique of his issue positions represent the tired politics of the past. If he had his way, questions about character and questions about issues would be off-limits.

Then there is the matter of race. Every American should be pleased that this year a black candidate has eschewed the demagogic appeals of a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton and knitted together a diverse group of enthusiastic supporters.

But Mr. Obama shouldn't get gentler treatment than other candidates because of his race. So far he has, as too many commentators tiptoe around him as if they were walking on eggshells. Just look at the late-night comedy shows, where jokes about Hillary Clinton's fibbing and John McCain's age have been frequent and memorable. But until perhaps very recently can anyone recall any comparable jape about Barack Obama's foibles?

Mr. Obama has said he wants to be judged and treated as any other candidate would be. The hostile establishment-media reaction to ABC's debate shows that he has not been.

The presidency is too important to allow that kind of blinkered mentality to govern the rest of this year's election coverage. Bravo to ABC for finally asking a lot of questions many Americans have been talking about.
Fund’s entire column’s here.

I’ll sign agreeing with every word of it.

How about you?


Anonymous said...

Many posters on this site have made strenuous objections to the questions directed at Mr. Obama by the ABC moderators. I have a question that wasn't asked, but could well have been a follow-up to the flag pin question. I really don't dispute what Mr. Obama says about the wearing of a flag pin and I think it was a very trivial point. However, if Mr. Obama feels the wear of the flag pin does not, in and of itself, have anything to do with one's patriotism, why then is Mr. Obama surrounded by American flags whenever he makes a formal speech? It would appear that he is accustomed to having a dozen or so flags lined up behind him. Does that "statement" fit in with Mr. Obama's idea of what patriotism is or is not? Some consistency might be a pleasant change.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

Anyone that thinks that Senator Obama not wearing a flag pin is trivial, might want to talk with some veterans.

There are veterans that took great offense, and have said as the resentment grows, more flags are placed on the stage.

I didn’t notice more flags, but I think Senator Obama had to appease veterans, or the anti-war Code Pink crowd. It remains to be seen if he made the right decision.

RedMountain said...

I am more interested in the briefs or boxers question, the ABC moderators clearly were out of the loop as to what issues America wanted discussed at this debate.