The Las Vegas debate sponsored by MSNBC revealed more about the pathetic state of corporate journalism than it did about the three leading Democratic candidates for President.
First of all, the network (owned by GE) went to court to deprive Representative Dennis Kucinich of the opportunity to participate in the debate, even though it originally invited him.
Then, some of the first words out of Brian Williams’s mouth were: “It’s down to three.” Well, the only reason there were three on stage, Brian, is because you booted the fourth one off.
For the next half hour of the two-hour debate, you wouldn’t have known that there was a war going on in Iraq, or in Afghanistan, or that the country is falling into recession, or that people are losing their homes en masse. Why? Because all Brian Williams and Tim Russert wanted to talk about was race and tit-for-tat stuff.
Right before the debate, Keith Olbermann asked NBC’s in-house political expert whether the question of race would come up, and the expert assured viewers it would. No wonder! Because that’s all Williams and Russert brought up at the outset, even though Obama and Clinton had already buried this hatchet.
It got so bad that a protester from the audience finally yelled: “Will you stop all these race-based questions?”
Williams’s first three questions were on race.
Russert's first five were on race.
This line of questioning all had the effect of putting Obama on the defensive. Egregiously, Russert dredged up Obama’s confession in “Dreams From My Father” that he used drugs as a teenager. Russert did so by asking Clinton about her supporter Robert Johnson, who had raised the issue. But it served to broadcast to the entire audience this embarrassing aspect of Obama’s past.
Then Williams asked Obama about his remark in the previous debate that Hillary was “likable enough.” As if that has anything to do with anything.
Williams followed up by asking Edwards if he wasn’t “piling on” in that debate.
Is this what passes for substantive questioning?
But Williams reached the absolute low point when he spread around some filth he’d found on the Internet. Here’s how he put it:
“Senator Obama, a fresh question here. It may not come as news to you that there’s a lot of false information about you circulating on the Internet. We received one e-mail, in particular. . . . This particular one alleges, among other things, that you are trying to hide the fact that you’re a Muslim, that you took the oath of office on the Koran and not the Bible and that you will not pledge allegiance to the flag or generally respect it. How do you—how does your campaign go on about combating this kind of thing?”
What kind of question is that?
This gives new meaning to scraping from the bottom of the barrel.