This is possibly the first time in memory that the media's actually suffered for doing a bad job, They pissed off both candidates with their shoddy debate moderation during the primary campaign, and so now they're being shunted aside from the bigger prize: The townhalls in the general. It's sort of beautiful.It is sort of beautiful. On the other hand, I'm going to wait and see how these things turn out before I cheer too loudly. As bad as the press performance was — especially in last year's MSNBC Hillary pile-on and this year's ABC flag lapel pin lollapalooza — it's possible that allowing the candidates to turn these townhalls into 90-minute commercials could end up pretty badly too. After all, recent debates aside, the most common reason for shutting out the press isn't a principled aversion to trivial questions, it's a highly practical aversion to being forced to answer difficult questions. The decline of the White House press room may be partly the press's fault, but it's even more the fault of presidential communications shops that have gotten astronomically more sophisticated about shutting down the media and limiting presidential exposure to highly controlled, camera-friendly events over the past few decades. This isn't a trend we should be celebrating.
Anyway, not saying this experiment will be a bust, and I think unmoderated townhalls are absolutely worth a try. But this isn't 1858 and these candidates aren't Lincoln and Douglas. Caveat emptor.