David Brooks gave his assessment of last night's debate in the NYT today with his article "No Whining About the Media."
His assessment is that the media did a great job, because it is their job to make the candidates uncomfortable. And if they can make Obama uncomfortable, it's a big win.
After watching the first half hour of the debate, I don't agree. And he would probably tell you I am a whiny Obama supporter, because whiny Obama supporters didn't like the questions which were asked of the candidates. But, I'm going to whine anyway.
I disagree that it's the media's job to make a candidate uncomfortable. If that were so, then they could just make them debate in wet clothes, or under a heat lamp, or with sand in their shoes. No, it's the media's job to help us understand the issues and force the candidates to face those issues. And in that process, the media should not be averse to make politicians uncomfortable. But the discomfort of candidates is a probable result of the media doing their job, not an end unto itself as David Brooks describes it.
But what about the argument that there is value in seeing the candidate's reactions when faced with opposition-party talking points because placing them under pressure is revealing?
I agree that any time you see a candidate react, you are learning something about that candidate. But am I to understand that the candidates' positions on relevant issues are unassailable? Should I accept that the only way to knock them off kilter is to elevate the issue of wearing a flag lapel pin to the same forum in which you discuss our men and women dying in another country or families that are in financial jeopardy as a result of the current administration's failed policies?
The only excuse here is laziness or sensationalism. And what we end up with is the acceptance of opposition party talking points as "news" and the all-too-familiar race to the bottom that we call national political news coverage.
If Obama supporters are not to be trusted in their assessment of the debate, and Clinton supporters are also seeing this with a partisan eye, I have to say that Brooks is suffering from his own bias which is pro-sensationalism. By all means hold their feet to the fire, but why not make it about the issues?