The outrage at ABC News is palpable from quarters high and low; even the usually temperate Josh Marshall calls the debate an "unmitigated travesty." One ought to be skeptical of public opinion pressure when it is anchored in the worldview of one campaign. Still, 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. But it's a complicated question and one that is probably best explored in a forum that gives Obama more of an opportunity to respond. I can't help but wondering whether, if the debate had followed a more traditional path, and if there had been questions for Hillary Clinton about Mark Penn's association with Colombia or Clinton library disclosure or "screw 'em," the outrage would be as loud.
I personally have no problem with a "one-sided" debate, particularly one that focuses on the de-facto nominee, on the 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.