Barack Obama performed poorly in Wednesday’s debate, so his supporters are up in arms because the moderators asked him some tough questions. Howard Kurtz collects the vitriol that liberals have leveled against ABC, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos (!). It’s over the top: “asinine,” “despicable,” “disgraceful.” Basically, Obama’s supporters are demanding kid glove treatment for their guy. Well, why not? He’s gotten it up until now, and they’ve come to expect it.
Also, they’re trying to intimidate the journalists who will participate in the general election debates next fall. They’re warning them that tough questions of Obama will not be tolerated. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the current hissy fit may, indeed, cause reporters to go easier on Obama in a few months.
As for the substance of the controversy over the ABC debate, Peter Wehner gets the last word:
Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasnt just the candidates pastor but also a close friend, the man who married the candidate and his wife, baptized his two daughters, and inspired the title of his best-selling book.
In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And lets say that the GOP candidates press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as friendly.
Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers. We would, I predict, be seeing an unprecedented media feeding frenzy.
The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here, one rooted in the fawning regard many journalists have for Barack Obama. They have a deep, even emotional, investment in his candidacy. And, as we are seeing, they will turn on anyone, even their colleagues, who dare raise appropriate and searching questionsthe kind journalists are supposed to ask. The reaction to Stephanopoulos and Gibson is a revealing and depressing glimpse into the state of modern journalism.
As for the political consequences of Obama’s fumbled performance, the tea leaves are hard to read. We have dueling polls, some showing Hillary Clinton narrowing Obama’s national lead, while a Newsweek poll–an outlier, I think–has Obama up by 19 points.
What matters, of course, is how Pennsylvania Democrats vote on Tuesday. Both camps are busily spinning the margin of victory, but the reality is that if Clinton wins, regardless of the margin, her campaign remains viable and she will continue to try to persuade the superdelegates that she is the party’s best hope in November.