The "distractions" debate

Democratic debate dominated by discussion of hot-button issues, not substance.

By Steve Benen

Published April 17, 2008 12:47AM (EDT)

About half an hour into tonight's debate in Philadelphia, Barack Obama warned that the political world had become "obsessed" with "distractions" and "gaffes."

Watching the debate, I think he wasn't just talking to the political world in general. In a 90-minute forum, the first 45 minutes included the following topics, in this order:

1. The "bitter" controversy

2. The Jeremiah Wright controversy

3. The Bosnia "sniper fire" story

4. The flag-pin question

5. The William Ayers story

When the candidates would try to suggest that these issues are unrelated to the challenges facing the country, they were ignored.

Anyone tuning in, hoping for a substantive discussion of actual issues was left wanting, at least for the first 45 minutes.

One gets the distinct impression that the debate is geared towards the chattering class, not the nation at large.

Steve Benen

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