In response to the massive criticism of the ABC Presidential Debate, George Stephanopoulos has said, "Overall, the questions were tough, fair, relevant, and appropriate." This is not true. For the issue is not just about the bias towards gossip and gotcha-questions--(over which people may differ as to whether they are fair, relevant and appropriate). At one point, Stephanopoulos asked Obama: "do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?" And after Obama's answer, he keeps it up, "But do you believe he's as patriotic as you are."

This is not asking about a particular incident or about any particular belief or commitment of the candidate. It is asking one person to speculate on another person's love for their country. How could Obama possibly know the answer to such a question? Was he supposed--Bush-like--to have gazed into Reverend Wright's soul? 

And, of course, there is no way to answer the question without losing. If the answer is ‘yes', then the question becomes, well, then, how patriotic are you, really? If the answer is ‘no', then the question is, why are you hanging around with a priest you know to be unpatriotic?

There is no politician in living memory who has more directly and honestly faced a political problem than Obama in his speech on Reverend Wright and the lingering problems of race in this country. Instead of dealing with the issues that the Wright controversy does genuinely raise--which would be "tough, fair, relevant and appropriate"--Stephanopoulos actively tried to bring the issues down to the level of unfounded speculation and gossip.

The real issue then is not that Stephanopoulos brought up the Wright issue yet again; it is the manner in which he did it. It was, obviously, an attempted mugging.

--Jonathan Lear