Thursday, December 11, 2003

Dan Kennedy on Koppel


Ted Koppel’s opening gambit at Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate was so inane and disrespectful that at first I didn’t realize the proceedings were officially under way. When Koppel asked the candidates to raise their hands if they thought Howard Dean could beat George W. Bush, I assumed he was just warming up the crowd.

It was only after Koppel warned John Kerry that his time had expired that I noticed it was actually a few minutes after 7 p.m. To my disgust, I then knew that Koppel’s little exercise in horse-race stupidity was being staged not just for the benefit of a few C-SPAN geeks (me included) and the University of New Hampshire crowd. It was also part of the actual televised debate, as broadcast live on New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV (Channel 9), and rebroadcast later that night on ABC’s Nightline.

What a disgrace. Before the debate, Koppel told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz that his goal was to "keep people at home from dozing off." He accomplished that, but only by tarnishing his own considerable reputation. By focusing on Al Gore’s surprise endorsement of Dean, and on the polling and fundraising shortcomings of the other eight candidates, Koppel actually pulled off the heretofore unimaginable feat of giving Dennis Kucinich a moment in the spotlight.

Hell, even that useful idiot Saletan gets it right for once:

These were the last 90 debating minutes of the year - a crucial opportunity for every candidate other than Dean - and Koppel wasted 30 of those minutes on questions barely worthy of aides in bars.