Over the weekend The New Yorker held its annual talking heads festival and one of its panels featured Bill Keller, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Peggy Noonan, Jack Shafer and Ken Auletta who discussed the media and the campaign.
One of the questions from the audience came from a Hillary Clinton supporter who asked about sexism in the coverage during the primary season.
Go to 3:00 in the HuffPost video to hear the complete non-answers offered up by Shafer and Noonan who pretty much refuse to even address the premise of the question, which continues to be the Issue That May Not Be Discussed Inside the Beltway Press Corps.
Paul Reiser didn't see a lot of "town" in Tuesday night's town hall debate, just "a couple dozen of over-lit, underwhelmed people who got free tickets."
And Greg Mitchell notes, "We've come to lower our expectations for real debates in the "debate" process, but this one was terrible." The selected questions were weak, he said, and the follow-up's non-existent. Mitchell suggests even bloggers could do a better quizzing the candidates.
Agreed. Given the media and technology revolution we've seen in recent years, which has forever altered the way candidates can communicate to voters, this staid, MSM-driven format feels very 1984/1988.
But not a peep from the Beltway talking heads, who refuse to criticize the TV productions.
UPDATE: At the debate's conclusion, CNN's Anderson Cooper announced, "A debate unlike any we've seen before."
Really? It seemed to be exactly like previous debates we'd seen. But Cooper's job was to prop up the forum as something extra special.
UPDATE: Micah Sifry at Tech President writes:
If a candidate can post a 37 minute speech online or a 13 minute documentary (and get millions of views, as Obama has done), then surely we can remake the debates in the age of the Internet to deliver rich, detailed and interactive content to the America people, to help us make up our minds and improve the quality of the national discussion.
So much for the free-wheeling town hall format, right?
As one Daily Kos diarist put it:
Town hall? By what stretch of the imagination? More like a mausoleum. Might as well have had cardboard cutouts in those chairs. Just another way that the system forces us to feel fricking non-existent. Forces us to behave like good little children and not respond. Forces us to listen and not speak.
Meanwhile, moderator Tom Brokaw seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time focused on "the rules," which pretty much prevented a town hall debate from actually taking place.
After Paul Begala quoted an AP article suggesting Sarah Palin has leveled racially-tinged attacks on Barack Obama, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper turned and asked Alex Castellanos if he thinks there is a racial element to the GOP campaign.
I mean, sure: he's an expert on racially-tinged campaigns. But what makes CNN think they'll get an honest answer out of him?
From Time's live blogging Jim Poniewozik:
"Will there be a memorable moment from any one of the Presidential debates?"
Cable chatterers busy hyping the events don't like to dwell on the simple fact that very rarely do these type of heavily structured debates create memorable moments.
WaPo's Chris Cillizza on tonight's debate:
Who's the Underdog? On the one hand, every state and national poll shows movement toward Obama and his massive spending edge on television appears to be asserting itself in the final month of the campaign. On the other, McCain has done hundreds of townhall meetings in his political career, and was so comfortable with the format that he proposed a series of ten such gatherings with Obama this summer. Despite McCain's skill at townhalls, we still think he's the underdog, based on his disadvantage in polling and fundraising, and the public increasingly blaming his party for the financial crisis gripping the nation.
This nicely illustrates the problematic thinking that goes into the media's assessment of who "wins" debates. Why on earth would McCain's disadvantage in fundraising make him an underdog tonight? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever -- but it does illustrate the fact that too many journalists think about debates in terms of everthing except the one thing that actually matters: Which candidate most successfully shows that s/he is most likely to be the kind of president most viewers want?
McCain just claimed Obama wants to raise taxes. When Obama asked for time to respond, Brokaw denied him the time, pointing to "the rules."
Then, not 20 seconds later, Brokaw announced that "since the rules are a little loose here," he was going to add his own question to the mix.
So, Tom Brokaw strictly applies the rules when it means denying Obama the chance to respond to a misleading claim about his plans. But then Brokaw announces that the rules are "a little loose" when he wants to ask a question.
No wonder the McCain campaign picked Brokaw to moderate the debate.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.
At CNN it takes 12 paid pundits to chatter the debate.
Brokaw: "Senator, we have one minute for discussion here."
One minute? To discuss how to fix the economy? Seems like maybe they'll need more time ...
According to New York Times blog The Caucus, Sarah Palin finally took questions from reporters on the plane.
During the Q & A, she blasted Obama for his association with Bill Ayers. The Caucus provides no indication that any of the reporters asked her to square her comments about Obama and Ayers with John McCain's relationship with Gordon Liddy. (Or her own connections to the Alaska Independence Party, for that matter.)
Instead, Palin got this question:
And she was asked if she would like to make an appearance on "Saturday Night Live," to answer back to Tina Fey's parody of her.
"I would love to," she said.
After weeks of waiting for a chance to ask Palin a question, that's what the press corps came up with? "Would you like to be on Saturday Night Live?"