NYT Piles On in Debate Backlash Against ABC

Liberal Obama supporters whine, and the news media jumps. There was an outcry over the supposedly unfair and disgraceful questions poised to Barack Obama by ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos at Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate, and media reporter Jacques Steinberg dutifully files "Who Lost the Debate? Moderators, Many Say."

Obama's army may not find questions about his flag pin and relationship to Weathermen terrorist William Ayers relevant, but many do. And it's not as if there are deep divides between the candidates that should be discussed instead. Both Obama and Clinton favor universal health care, are hostile to free trade, want to raise taxes on "the rich, "and pull troops out of Iraq. What's left to talk about but character and scandal?

Strangely, Steinberg's article manages to avoid bringing up Ayers at all, sticking with the lapel-pin controversy.

If there was a common theme, it was that Mr. Gibson and Mr. Stephanopoulos had front-loaded the debate with questions that many viewers said they considered irrelevant when measured against the faltering economy or the Iraq war, like why Senator Barack Obama did not wear an American flag pin on his lapel. Others rapped the journalists for dwelling on matters that had been picked over for weeks, like the incendiary comments of Mr. Obama's former pastor, or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's assertion that she had to duck sniper fire in Bosnia more than a decade ago.

Only after half of the 90-minute debate had been concluded did the moderators turn to questions concerning Iraq, Iran, the housing crisis and affirmative action.

Steinberg found even fellow media folk sided with liberal complainers against their fellow network ABC.

David Bohrman, who oversees all of the political coverage at CNN, took particular issue with the lapel-flag question, which was posed to Mr. Obama by a voter appearing on tape. Mr. Bohrman said he would have instead had the moderators ask each candidate about their stance on a possible amendment to the Constitution banning flag-burning. "That's a legitimate flag question," Mr. Bohrman said. "I think the voters are expecting more from us."