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Giving Keith Olbermann A Worst Persons Assist

I didn't set out to make Fox News Channel's Gregg Jarrett one of Keith Olbermann's "Worst Persons in the World" when I appeared with Jarrett last Saturday, but I suppose I could have seen it coming.

What happened was a clash between what we want to talk about and what we should talk about--news that's vitally important and news that's entertaining. In my exchange with Jarrett, as in so much of journalism these days, infotainment won out.

I'd been told in advance that Jarrett would ask me about the impact of John Edwards's moment of disgrace on the Democrats' political prospects, and I answered truthfully: It's a distraction, albeit a compelling one. Soon, America would get over its fascination with John Edwards's predicament and focus on things that really matter, like the Russian tanks that were, at that very moment, rolling through Georgia. Maybe, I suggested, someone would ask both John McCain and Barack Obama if the Russians' invasion might make them re-think their previous support for Georgia's inclusion in NATO. After all, if the parties' presumptive nominees had gotten their way, the United States might have been, at that moment, on the verge of nuclear war; conversely, maybe if Georgia had been admitted to NATO, it might have deterred Russia and avoided a lot of bloodshed.

Jarrett's response? "You know, um, but getting back to Edwards..."

Jarrett isn't the only reporter who gave John Edwards more time than the United States' relationship with the former Soviet Union, and there's no doubt his questions were a lot more interesting to more viewers than the implications of Georgia's application to join NATO. If Jarrett deserved to be named one of the "Worst Persons in the World," he's got a lot of good company.

But with Americans telling pollsters, pundits, and anybody else who'll listen that they want more discussion of substantive issues, maybe we can move on from discussions of flag pins, preachers, and biker rallies--yes, and adulterous ex-candidates--and move on to something really important. Time is running out.

By Bonnie Erbe