Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos may consider steering clear of the Internet today. In fact, stay away from all media. Maybe go fishing, go riding on a tandem bicycle through the park or something. Because this nice, sunny day will be utterly ruined if they come in contact with any written words right now. The normally venerable newsmen are being absolutely lambasted for their moderation of last night’s Democratic debate, in which the first 50 minutes were spent exhuming the many scandals, or non-scandals (the flag pin? No, really, the flag pin?), that we had already beaten to death and buried, at the cost of topics some Democrats might consider important, like, hm, the environment, health care, or education, for example.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who came out today with the most vigorous condemnation of Gibson and Stephanopoulos. Is it the Washington Post’s Tom Shales, who wrote that they turned in “shoddy, despicable performances”? Or perhaps Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, who called the debate “a televised train wreck”? There’s more…
• Greg Mitchell on the Huffington Post proclaimed it “the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years.”
• Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo referred to it as an “unmitigated travesty.”
• Gibson — whose glasses were so far down on his nose that if he moved them any further he’d be able to taste them — was painted as elite and out of touch by The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel for being “shocked” when the Democrats talked of raising taxes on the rich.
• Stephanopoulos, for his part, is being condemned for taking his cues from Sean Hannity, that bastion of journalistic integrity, on his Weather Underground line of questioning.
But it’s possible that the most revealing reaction last night was not from the pundits but from the crowd itself. As ABC went to a commercial at the end of the debate, the audience began booing and heckling Gibson. “The crowd is turning on me, the crowd is turning on me,” Gibson said, throwing up his hands. If only it was just the crowd, Charles. —Dan Amira