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Bad night, and good luck

By       Message Tom Driscoll     Permalink
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What struck me about last night's Democratic Candidates Debate was how sadly degraded "the fourth estate" has become. I was reminded of the famous Edward R. Murrow speech that was used as the framing device in the recent film "Goodnight And Good Luck" -after last night one could really wonder if television can serve as anything more than an empty box of flashing lights.

Would it have been so hard for the network to forego their advertising revenue and not cut the broadcast up into segments of limited attention span banter, a la 'Sesame Street'? The pompous and condescending voice over with excerpts from the Constitution had me expecting a stirring rendition of "I'm Just A Bill" at any moment.

Did we really have to spend the first 45 minutes of the broadcast hashing over campaign trail gaffes? Barack's lapel pin and Hillary's faulty memory? Does Barack Obama "believe in the flag"? My son had to leave the room at that point -he couldn't take any more.

Once they settled into the issues (so to speak) things didn't get a heck of a lot better. The questions were treated as complete non sequiturs and what few attempts to vet distinctions between one candidate's policy versus another's came despite the presence of our esteemed journalists, not at their urging. Gibson playing gotcha games with Obama over tax policy said more to me about Gibson's priorities than anything else. Stephanopoulos pushed the candidates for their response to "the Iranian nuclear arms program" that our own National Security Estimate says hasn't existed since 2003. Ugh.

Both Obama and Clinton -and especially the country-deserved better than we got last night. I'll admit to having my own leanings in the campaign, but what I'm saying here isn't about why I think that candidate is better than the other. What I want to know is why last night left me so feeling empty -and please don't tell me it's the candidates' fault. Each of these people have put a great deal of thought and energy into their proposals for policy and into defining and proposing a new agenda for the country. There are differences, for sure -substantive and import ones maybe. Last night didn't get us any closer to seeing them. I couldn't help noticing Gibson and Stephanopoulos as part of the problem. To borrow and bend a line from Shakespeare, I think the problem is in ourselves and in our (media)stars.


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Tom driscoll is an opinion columnist, poet, performiing songwriter (let's just say he writes).

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