If I had to sum up my reaction to the South Carolina Democratic debate Monday night in just one sentence, I would paraphrase what contender John Edwards said, “Excuse me, there are three people in this debate, not TWO and with all this squabbling, how many kids will be able to get health care or go to college because of this meanness.”
Not only did this become a Hillary-Barack slugfest with their behavior along with how debate host CNN’s Wolf Blitzer handled it, but the media after the fact seemed to ignore that Edwards was even present. Most of the clips of it shown offered no glimpse, much less a soundbyte, from the former North Carolina senator.
The relatively few who DID notice Edwards was there, like Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown, noted that he came out as the soul of reason, the only one who realizes this isn’t about Hillary or Barack or even himself, but a nation filled with hurting people who can no longer afford their mortgages, their health insurance, or to be guaranteed a decent education for their kids. As Newsweek’s Howard Fineman pointed out with Keith, if Clinton-Obama fights like this continue for the next month, Edwards is almost guaranteed to come out ahead of both of them put together.
Finally, the media was far more focused on the arguments between the woman candidate and the black candidate, making it sound like it was just wrong. As a pacifist and as someone who rarely feels she learns much from arguing, I’d agree. However, the media ONLY looks at Clinton and Obama and the fighting, giving almost NO attention to harsh words exchanged between Republican candidates or many of the lies the GOP runners tell about the Democrats as well as their own voting/business history. Given how the media presents this stuff, how can we possibly trust their overall analysis? Hell, they didn’t give Mike Huckabee this kind of heat when he came out a few times last week to declare that the U.S. Constitution must be completely rewritten to document the word and laws of His God – something that affects all of us a HELL of a lot more than whether Hillary and Barack love each other or engage in verbal smackdowns.