Liberals Defend the Candidates by Attacking the Debate Moderators

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:33 PM EDT

( - A liberal advocacy group that supports Sen. Barack Obama for president is blasting debate moderators George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson for "hurting the national dialogue in an election year."'s Political Action Team complained that Stephanopoulos and Gibson spent the first 50 minutes of Wednesday night's debate "obsessed with distractions that only political insiders care about -- verbal gaffes, polling numbers, the stale Rev. Wright story, and the old-news Bosnia story. And, channeling Karl Rove, they directed a video question to Barack Obama asking if he loves the American flag or not."

Enough is enough, Political Action said in a message to supporters. The group is urging like-minded liberals to sign a petition urging ABC and other media outlets to stop abusing the public trust by asking "trivial questions about gaffes and 'gotchas' that only political insiders care about."

"Please send a message to ABC and other media outlets that we need our national dialogue to focus on the real issues facing Americans," the email says.

The petition says ABC and other networks must focus on issues that affect people's daily lives -- something the candidates have been doing for months on the campaign trail.

In the same vein on Thursday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) focused on the debate moderators during his day-after campaign stops.

"We set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people," Obama told a crowd in Raleigh, N.C.

"That was the roll out of the Republicans campaign against me in November," Obama said. "It happened just a little early but that is what they will do. They will try to focus on all these issues that don't have anything to do with how you are paying your bills at the end of the month," Obama said.

Obama took some uncomfortable questions at Wednesday's debate in Philadelphia -- a first for him, some press reports said. Both candidates were pressed on recent campaign trail mistakes they'd prefer to forget; and Obama was questioned about his association with his racist pastor and a former anarchist.

ABC News admits it has heard from thousands of angry viewers.

Wednesday night's face-off was the 21st Democratic "debate" in which both Clinton and Obama have participated.

For some debate viewers, the questions put to Clinton and Obama were an opportunity for the candidates to clarify confusion over some of their controversial statements -- and to show how well they think on their feet.

Both Clinton and Obama seemed well-prepared to answer the questions asked of them.

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