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The Backlash Against ABC

"Gibson asked about the now-infamous comments Obama made about 'bitter' working-class Americans: 'Do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing and think that you said actually what you meant?' For a moment, I imagined Obama answering with what I thought might be running through his head. 'Of course I know, you dummy. I can read a newspaper.'

"Alas, presidential candidates don't get to be snide (unless they're John McCain, in which case they can be anything they want and still get glowing media coverage). Instead, a weary-looking Obama answered all of these familiar questions with what have become his familiar answers. Some are good, some not so good, but in a sense it really didn't matter. The cumulative effect was to turn the debate's first half into a long infomercial about Obama's electability issues."

To Time's Joe Klein, the issue is not ABC's alleged one-sidedness but lack of nuance:

"I think Stephanopoulos and Gibson were doing what journalists do: they picked the most obvious scabs. They asked trivial questions because this has become a trivial campaign--mostly because Clinton and Obama have nearly identical positions on most issues. And there is some value in seeing how Obama--the likely nominee--will handle Republican style attacks in the general election campaign, should they come. Last night he handled them fairly well, but not nearly as sharply as he could have. He stumbled about, at times. He could have been more aggressive about shaming Clinton for her 100% negative advertising in the campaign. He could have deployed the humor that he's used so effectively in the past. His essential point--that these trivial pursuits are distractions from the huge issues at stake in this election--needed to be driven home more forcefully.

"But I was as dismayed with the second half of the debate--the 'substantive' part--as I was with the first. The ABC moderators clearly didn't spend much time thinking about creative substantive gambits. They asked banal, lapidary questions, rather than trying to break new ground. They asked the same old Iraq troop withdrawal question, rather than using the skillful interrogation Clinton and Obama deployed during the Petraeus hearings last week as a way to dig deeper toward the heart of the issue . . .

"My guess is that Obama, simply by pointing out the dopiness of the questions in the first half of the debate, probably emerged from this better than Clinton did."

Former ABC staffer Marc Ambinder agrees that this is spring training for Obama's fall season:

"Most of the ill-wind seems to be blowing from the Obama corner of the woods doesn't mean that the wind is artificial. My instinct, as a card-carrying member of the news media and a former ABC News person, is to defend ABC News, but I won't do that: ABC can defend itself. Some of the criticism seems warranted; a few key facts in the preamble to certain questions were wrong; the American flag pin question seemed out of place (although there are many Democrats and independents who really do worry about that, even though Obama has explained it to the satisfaction of most others.). Bill Ayers is a toughy; some associations matter, and some don't . . .

"I personally have no problem with a 'one-sided' debate, particularly one that focuses on the de-facto nominee, on the guy who wants voters to elect him to the most powerful office in the land. It also is illogical for Democrats to assert that simply because Republicans are likely to bring up certain issues and associations in certain ways, the media or other Democrats ought to be prohibited from bringing those up."

But Hot Air's Ed Morrissey is impressed:

"Thanks to a surprisingly tenacious set of questions for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton from ABC moderaters Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous, Barack Obama got exposed over and over again as an empty suit, while Hillary cleaned his clock . . .Kudos to ABC News for taking on both candidates fearlessly."

On that question about Bill Ayers: You'd think someone who was involved in bombings and says he regrets he didn't do more to stop the Vietnam War would be rather radioactive. But the Chicago Tribune reports:

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