"I can't remember a debate in which the only memorable moment was the audience's heckling of a moderator."
That's the opening line of Frank Rich's eminently entertaining essay in Sunday's New York Times on the recent Clinton-Obama debate.
Rich obviously missed the ruckus over Sarah Lacy's ill-fated interview of Mark Zuckerberg last month at the South by Southwest conference. That episode was well-chronicled elsewhere. Suffice it to say that Lacy wasn't at her best that evening and a crowd of nerds jumped ugly when their patience ran out. What followed was a week full of phony "bitchmeming" with the usual suspects flapping almost nonstop about the horror, the horror of it all.
Well, the world survived somehow (though really, some of you guys need to get a life). I still think Lacy got a raw deal. What's more, I wonder how many of those tut-tutters from the blog commentariat pushed away from their computers to pay attention when ABC co-anchors, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos turned the recent presidential face-off into an unadulterated idiot-fest?
It was some kind of spectacle. The day after the debate, Obama rightly noted that it took 45 minutes before he and Clinton even began talking about a single issue that matters to the American people. "Forty-five minutes before we heard about health care, 45 minutes before we heard about Iraq, 45 minutes before we heard about jobs, 45 minutes before we heard about gas prices," he said.
Gibson and Stephanopoulos were so out of touch with what's going on in America that the post-debate reviews skewered their fatuous line of questioning. (Truth be told, I was this close to tossing a slice at the screen in disgust--but no way was I going to waste good pizza because of those clowns.)
Anyway, it's too bad that neither Gibson nor Stephanopoulos are geeks. In the aftermath of the Lacy-Zuckerberg encounter, there also was constructive discussion about how best to engage an audience. And that's where Twitter commanded recognition as a real-time tool of two-way communication.
Based on what the respective camps are saying, this is likely going to be it for the Clinton-Obama road show. The next televised debate will be between McCain and whoever gets selected at the summer Democratic convention. The anointed interviewers for that occasion will have an opportunity to include the public as part of a two-way conversation. If Gibson and Stephanopoulos do get another crack at prime time, they can redeem themselves.
At least the technology is available to help if they bother to log on.