04/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Frank Rich: Shoddy! Tawdry! A Televised Train Wreck!

"THE crowd is turning on me," said Charles Gibson, the ABC anchor, when the audience jeered him in the final moments of Wednesday night's face-off between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

I can't remember a debate in which the only memorable moment was the audience's heckling of a moderator. Then again, I can't remember a debate that became such an instant national gag, earning reviews more appropriate to a slasher movie like "Prom Night" than a civic event held in Philadelphia's National Constitution Center:

"Shoddy, despicable!" -- The Washington Post

"A tawdry affair!" -- The Boston Globe

"A televised train wreck!" -- The Philadelphia Daily News

And those were the polite ones. Let's not even go to the blogosphere.

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