COMMENTS: Avoiding the Roughhouse

All three networks focused on the Democrats on the campaign trail. CBS substitute anchor Harry Smith had Jeff Greenfield debrief him on their afternoon debate. Greenfield corrected Smith: "A debate is a discussion of opposing views." He accounted for the Democrats' lack of discord by pointing to Sunday when the newspaper that moderated the confab makes its endorsement: "Nobody wants to play roughhouse and offend the good people who run the Des Moines Register."

Greenfield enjoyed playing a John Edwards soundbite: "If you want a fighter--to voters, to caucusgoers--you are looking at somebody, I am 54 years old, who has spent his entire life engaged in this fight and winning this fight that we must win." "We are starting to get the message," mused Smith. "He is a fighter." "Very perceptive, Harry." But Greenfield only related and did not rerun Hillary Rodham Clinton's "raucous laugh" when Barack Obama was asked why he had so many of her husband Bill's advisors helping him frame a foreign policy. "I will be happy to take advice from you, Hillary," Obama replied.

Rodham Clinton has tried "several lines of attack on Obama," reported ABC's Kate Snow (no link). "Her campaign has had meeting after meeting looking for the best way to bring Obama down but nothing seems to stick…or worse, it backfires." Snow was referring to Bill Shaheen, a top Rodham Clinton aide in New Hampshire, who expressed trepidation about an Obama nomination to a Washington Post reporter, namely that Obama's acknowledged adolescent narcotics use would escalate into Republican speculation that he had been a drug dealer too. The Rodham Clinton campaign "denied that this was an authorized attack," reported NBC's Andrea Mitchell. Yet Mitchell observed that Rodham Clinton's "allies have been frustrated with the lack of attention to Obama's adolescent drug use leading Obama aides to say this whole episode was deliberate."

ABC continued its weekly Who Is? series on the personal background of the candidates with Joe Biden, and a compelling story it was too. Anchor Charles Gibson (no link) recounted how, just days before the then 29-year-old Delaware Democrat was to be sworn into the Senate as its youngest member, his wife Neilia and their 18-month-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident. His eyes red-rimmed, Biden described how he saw suicide as a rational option: "If the love was as great and as profound as you believed it to be why would you still want to live? Why would you want to reestablish your life?"


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