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Daniella Gibbs Leger Headshot

Is This the Best They Can Do?

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I'm beginning to think that the writers of Gossip Girl are behind the Presidential election.

"Spotted: B and H, dueling for delegates in NC. What's worse, B bowling a 37 or H forgetting what really happened in Bosnia? I'll never tell."

The now infamous ABC debate made my head hurt. Sure, there were some important issues actually discussed. But did we really need to spend that much time on the Rev. Wright story? Again? Been there done that. Why not give the candidates time to really explain where they stand on McCain's new tax plan and how their own plans differ from each other? Instead we focus on some guy who was a radical 40 years ago, apparently rehabbed himself enough to get pardoned by President Clinton, who Obama knows. Sort of. Not really that well.

REALLY? Last time I checked this country was facing the worst housing crisis in its history; sliding towards a recession and fast; mired in a conflict with no end in sight in Iraq; and the number of people falling into poverty is growing. 90 whole minutes dedicated to those topics would have been of great benefit to the American people. Instead, we get GG.

"Uh oh. Gossip Girl here. Seems Cindy McCain is ashamed of her culinary skills. Why else would an intern lift recipes from Giada and Rachel? Trouble in kitchen paradise?"

Come ON people. Let's talk about how McCain's proposed health care plans wouldn't cover people with pre-existing conditions. Let's talk about how the candidates plan to end the war in Iraq - or not. Let's hear how the candidates propose to fix our broken K-12 education system - I've barely heard a WORD about that. Yet I know that Obama sometimes doesn't wear a flag lapel.

I understand the need for the 24 hour news channels to fill hours upon hours with content. But there are enough differences between the Democrats and Republicans on the ISSUES that there could be a substantive debate on the issues. There is so much at stake, and these candidates have starkly different ideologies on governance. Giving the issues the Gossip Girl treatment and boiling things down to "he said, she said, he said," fails us all.

I also refuse to believe that the viewers don't want more substance. Judging by the overwhelmingly negative response to the ABC debate, I'd guess that people are just about done with the superficial questions. They want to know who is going to be a better steward of the economy; who is going to restore America's image abroad, and who is best suited to protect the American people. Let's give ourselves more credit. We care more about cutting the deficit than who can do a better shot (for what it's worth, if you don't drink the whole thing, that's not taking a shot! You're just sipping!).

I admit - this has been a very long campaign season. It feels like Iowa was a year ago. The Democratic candidates have debated 23 times. It probably seems like there is no new ground to cover. But for one, that's not true and two, even if it wasn't, that doesn't give the media free reign to enter into silly season, or constantly play gotcha, as B and H would say. Not to mix my pop culture metaphors, but when the fact that Heidi endorsed McCain is covered incessantly, should that give us all pause? (Btw, I'm totally on team Lauren).

Despite all this, I'm going to hold out hope that we will eventually return to substance. Maybe it won't happen until after the Democrats settle on a nominee. But can the media resist the temptation to immediately start covering the horse race? The optimist in me says yes. There are so many pressing issues facing our nation, I'm going to hope that who had a better appearance on The View won't become the criteria for picking the next president. There is just too much at stake.

"There's still time to get it together. Maybe there'll be a real ongoing debate on the issues after all. I still believe in you! And, you know you love me. XOXO. The American Public."

Daniella Gibbs Léger is Vice President for Communications at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. She watches entirely too much TV and the views expressed here are her own.