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Reporter: Philly Debate Was the 'Lamest' Yet

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Reporter: Philly Debate Was the 'Lamest' Yet

Election 2008

Reporter: Philly Debate Was the 'Lamest' Yet

Reporter: Philly Debate Was the 'Lamest' Yet

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/89713026/89712978" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Philadelphia debate

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the debate hosted by ABC Wednesday in Philadelphia. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Seven weeks after the last presidential debate, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama squared off Wednesday night in what Newsweek's Richard Wolffe says was, at this stage in the race, "a waste of time." Wolffe blames moderators and the network host, ABC.

"I think this has been an extraordinary election," says Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for the magazine. "It's been enthralling and engrossing. But this debate was the lamest, tiredest, 90-minute waste of time.... It was an endurance test of boredom."

Wolffe says the debate featured the candidates in only their most tired, unenlightening roles: "You had Hillary Clinton being the reluctant aggressor. 'This is going to hurt me so much to punch you in the face....' Then you have Obama 'shocked and aggrieved' that anyone would play politics."

Wolffe bemoaned the lost opportunity to address issues that have led 80 percent of Americans polled to say the country is on the wrong track. The debate "was a collection of gaffes, lapses," he says. "... The questions and the whole debate were a waste of time."

He faulted the moderators, "World News" anchor Charles Gibson and "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos, saying their questions "were badly framed.... You were left with the tiny slivers of these gaffes and slips and issues of character that have been thoroughly, amply, fully aired and discussed."

Wolffe also contends a profit motive showed through. The network "took a commercial break after two minutes, which was a sign to me that this was a commercial enterprise more than anything else," he says.

He hopes this will be the last contest between the two Democrats.

"I think they've said everything they can about each other," Wolffe says, later noting that "these two candidates are so closely aligned, really, on most things."

Rather than battle within the party, he suggests it's time for Obama and Clinton to compare themselves with the presumptive GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain. "I think there's a desire by the candidates, by the campaigns and I suspect by the Democratic voters to engage with the Republican nominee on the bigger debates," he says. "...It's time for them to actually engage with McCain."

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