04/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Back to the Most Important Story in the Country, After a Word from Our Sponsors

I don't know what you plan to do with your tax rebate, but I'd like to put mine to a good cause: buying the FCC a spine.

Tonight's Democratic presidential debate is sponsored by ABC, and as the New York Times pointed out, the network is treating it like some run-of-the-mill TV show. Or, to my way of thinking, like a special episode of Desperate Housewives.

Not only is ABC broadcasting the debate on time-delay to us here on the West Coast -- making the debate far less important, evidently, than the Oscars, which get broadcast in real time everywhere in the world.

But ABC is banning any other broadcast news or Web outlets from using more than a single 30-second clip from this presidential debate until the morning after it's over: "We have an obligation to our West Coast affiliates," a spokesman said, "to not make chunks of the debate available until their viewers have had a chance to see them."

Their viewers? Their viewers are American citizens, entitled to take free and unfettered part in the electoral process which -- at last reading -- is not a moneymaking opportunity, but a civic duty.

Rather than rolling over to the privatizing of public discourse, the FCC should muster some guts and insist that networks, broadcast and cable, take turns broadcasting presidential debates in real time, commercial-free, to the entire nation, in what is beyond question the public interest.

Silly me. I forgot that this is the FCC, the agency that defined Howard Stern's show as "a bona fide news program" just so Stern could throw lewd lines at then-gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, without having to devote any air time to any of the other candidates in an election that, to Californians, wasn't a joke but a vital exercise of political responsibility.

Oh wait, my bad -- the Stern show did want to interview one other gubernatorial candidate. The porn star.

All contributions for an FCC spine implant will be much appreciated.