About that flag-pin question

The debate question about flag lapel pins was hardly random and spontaneous.

Published April 18, 2008 2:02PM (EDT)

One more thing about Wednesday night's Democratic debate and then I'll let it go. Determining which of the discussion topics was the most inane is tricky, but I'd have to go with the flag lapel-pin question.

Early on in the debate, Charlie Gibson said he wanted to offer a question that "goes to the basic issue of electability." Gibson said, "[I]t is a question raised by a voter in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a woman by the name of Nash McCabe." From videotape, McCabe then asked Obama if he "believe[s] in" the American flag, and why he doesn't "wear the flag."

For ABC, this offers a little distance from the trivia -- the moderators didn't ask about lapel pins, some regular ol' person did. I had assumed that ABC went around western Pennsylvania, looking for voters with good questions, and thought McCabe's was provocative. But that's not quite what happened.

A couple of weeks ago, McCabe told the New York Times that she can't back Obama. "How can I vote for a president who won't wear a flag pin?" the recently unemployed clerk typist said. (Josh Marshall explained, "Presumably, a researcher for ABC or Gibson saw the piece in the Times, figured, hey, this lady hates Obama and is seriously ginned up about the lapel issue. Let's send a camera crew and film her slamming Obama to his face. It'll be great in the debate.")

Or as Will Bunch put it:

So Nash McCabe wasn't located at random at all. Instead, someone at ABC News decided that they wanted to go after Obama on the patriotism issue, and they actively sought a Pennsylvanian who they knew wanted to bring it up. I assume they thought it would sound better if "a typical voter" asked the question instead of Charlie Gibson. "You see, we're only raising the issue the voters really care about," they can claim.

By Steve Benen

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