Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekly Round-Up

Turns out the folks over at want me to give you the post primary coverage on Wednesday rather than my usual weekly round up. Of course I discovered that after I wrote the darn thing up, so I decided to post it up here. Enjoy:

Well this is it. Tomorrow is the primary in Pennsylvania, which could possibly be the end of what has been one of the most brutal Democratic primaries in recent history, highlighted by what was, quite possibly, the worse televised debate ever. As the shape of the election unfolds, this debate will undoubtedly set the tone, not only for the Republican strategy this fall; but, more importantly, how the media will shape the conflict. The debate was the story this week and it is the focus of this edition of Election ’08.

My full write up can be read here, but long story short, the moderation and content of ABC’s debate was an abomination. Karl Rove and the GOP smear machine couldn’t have written it up better. For 45 minutes moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopolous asked nothing but tabloid ‘gotcha’ questions, with an inordinate amount flung at Obama. Questions such as “Why don’t you wear a flag pin?” and “Do you think Rev. Wright loves America as much as you do?” were posed and from there it only went further south as the Sean Hanity inspired question about former Weatherman Bill Ayers’ tenuous connection to Obama was brought up by Stephanoplous. What followed summarized the tone, and central flaw of this calamity:

Stephanoplous: …first a follow-up on this issue, general theme of patriotism, in your relationships. A gentleman named William Ayers. He was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings. He's never apologized for that…Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?”

OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George.

The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.

Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those, either.

So this kind of game in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, that somehow their ideas could be attributed to me, I think the American people are smarter than that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't.”[Boldface mine]

By the time the questions got to actual issues such as taxation and Iraq Obama, and Clinton to some extent, was beaten, vomiting up answers with a robotic lack of passion, unable to challenge the moderators’ dubious premises.

This substance, or lack of, leads us to two important questions about the state of political discussion in America. The first, of course, has to do with Obama and whether or not this has hurt him. On the surface it has, and even his supporters know that his performance as lackluster at best. Viscerally, he looked as beat up as Rocky at the end of any Rocky movie; an image that only supports Sen. Clinton’s argument that Obama will be unable to withstand the Republican attack machine come the fall. However, the polls may tell a different story. Some of them do see an extension of Clinton’s lead, but most of them show a tightening; and, on average, they’re showing a five to seven point margin between the two candidates. Assuming Clinton wins, and there’s no reason to think that she won’t, a single point victory will still be spun into a win for Obama. They will say that she went 100% negative during the campaign, coinciding with her shameful performance last week, and Obama still managed to keep it close in a state where the demographics favored her. Thus, ultimately, the test of how much Obama has been hurt will be decided in the PA primary.

The second and more important question though is whether the public is getting exhausted at negative campaigning. While negative tactics has been, and will continue to be a strategy employed by both parties, it has never been a hallmark of the Democratic Party and has never leaked over as openly into the mainstream media. The MSM has always touched on these matters tangentially, but it has never immersed itself into smearing as it did in last week’s debate. The backlash against ABC has been almost violent as both pundits and regular people have, as Chuck Todd wrote, put “ABC…under siege.” has already amassed a 200,000 + petition against the media outlet, and further protests are ongoing. Obviously such actions have political roots (Moveon supports Obama), but the grassroots sentiment of such organizations does represent a certain populist attitude. Either people will oppose tabloid journalism or it will become the status quo of American political discussion that Karl Rove dreamed of. Ultimately, the choice is ours.

Obama did manage to get the final word in regarding the debate, but in doing so did the Junior Senator channel Jay-Z? You be the judge.

And Jay:

I always though Hip-Hop has the appropriate gravitas to cut to the heart of the matter.

Things to look forward to: The PA primary. Hillary has to win by double digits to keep this thing alive. If she doesn’t the DEM intelligentsia will finally step in and tell her to hit the road.

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