Politico’s Michael Calderone spoke to George Stephanopoulos via phone today and reports George defended last night’s debate:

“The vote for the president,” Stephanopoulos said, “is one of the most personal” decisions that someone makes.

“When people make that choice, they take into account how candidates stand on the issues,” he said, but also are concerned with “experience, character [and] credibility.”

“You can’t find a presidential election where those issues didn’t come into play,” he said.

Stephanopoulos explained that since the candidates are not far apart policy-wise, the “core of the nomination fight” has been about these issues.

“They’ve been fighting it out on this turf,” he said, adding that these are things that “came up between this debate and the last one.”

Experience, character, and credibility are not issues. Healthcare reform, how to stimulate the economy, getting out of Iraq…issues. In fact, if the candidates are not far apart policy-wise, ALL the more reason to hone in on what separates them. I’d like to know the details. A debate would have been a nice forum for that, no?

Spending 45+ minutes on garbage that has already been exhausted elsewhere – just BECAUSE it’s been exhausted elsewhere – is inexcusable.

Then there’s this:

I asked Stephanopoulos for his reaction to one specific piece of criticism — that of Washington Post critic Tom Shales calling the moderator’s performances “shoddy” and “despicable.”

“I think it just comes with the territory,” Stephanopoulos replied, adding, “I think you’re going to find a wide range of opinions.”

Sure. If you consider “unmitigated travesty” to “really, really horrible” to “the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years” a range.

One more thing: Even though it was a substantive disaster, ABC will tout last night’s debate as a HUGE success. Why? Ratings.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I can’t wait for ABC to claim that the ratings prove they did a good job. That’s like saying I’m appearing in a one-night-only Broadway show. And the show is sold out. That proves that my performance that night was stellar. Uh, no it doesn’t. It proves that people thought my performance was going to be stellar, it doesn’t prove that it turned out that way after they had already bought their tickets.

started on-air as a sports reporter in Hagerstown, Md and was a one-woman-band - shooting, writing, editing, and working the teleprompter with my foot. I moved to NYC in 1999 and joined - the world's first interactive TV network. Pseudo died Sept 2000, and the following years were filled with a series for Discovery International, a pilot for the History Channel, a pilot for the Travel Channel, and countless auditions. Client feedback research for a big investment bank paid the bills. In 2004, I took a gig with Kuma and made news reports for their reality-based video games. CNN called February 2005, and on Valentine's Day, I started covering the Internet as a beat on national TV. I left cable news in 2007, started this site, wrote a little for Americablog, and threw down the gauntlet. I said I'd leave TV to help fix health care if someone was taking a real stab at it. Someone was. I became the National Communications Director for Health Care for America Now. That was June 2008, and almost 2 years later - on March 25, 2010 - we won health care reform. I am currently at liberty.

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