ABC News Debate Reveals the New Bill Clinton; And He's Barack Obama

04/18/2008 09:33 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I spent much of Wednesday night watching American Idol and old TiVo'd shows -- hey, i'm a TV critic, It's my job! -- so I didn't see the original telecast of the big Democratic debate on ABC News, the 21st collision between these two candidates on TV.

(Much of America wasn't as disinterested as I; ABC News reports that 10.7-million people watched the debate, making it the most-watched debate of the 2008 presidential cycle).

And, if the news reports are to be believed, the first 50 minutes or so were spent quizzing Obama on a long litany of controversies that don't have much to do with the issues of the day, from Rev. Wright and his loose connection to a former member of the Weather Underground to the fact that he doesn't wear a flag pin on his lapel. So what headlines have dominated coverage of the event?

Hillary Clinton's admission that she does indeed think that Obama can win the presidency if he is the nominee.

It sounds like Wednesday night was a perfect storm of conditions converging to ensure an irrelevant debate. These candidates have already tangled publicly on policy issues for months (and on many issues, their positions aren't that different); they just appeared separately as a public forum on faith issues Sunday, we haven't had a primary in weeks, so there are no fresh electoral results to parse and the resulting lack of real campaign news has flooded the news cycle with irrelevance.

But through all that, the top headline on many post debate stories either criticized ABC News for focusing on such trivialities or played up Clinton's admission that she thinks he can win the general election, even as she presumably tells superdelegates in private that he cannot.

Despite some critics claim that Obama survives challenges by crying racism, there seems to be something else going on. I hope it's that people are parsing the BS on their own, with little help from the media.

And if that isn't an example of thekind of Teflon politics that Bill Clinton seemed to perfect during his years in politics, I'm not sure what is.