SERIOUS DEBATE….Matt Yglesias writes today about the media’s treatment of last week’s mini-fracas between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Why, he asks, were pundits interested almost exclusively in the politics of the disagreement instead of the substance?

The first votes won’t be cast until months from now. Why not cover what the candidates are saying about things and whether or not those things make sense? Why not let the issues play out a little bit and just wait and see who gains the advantage? Whether or not either Clinton or Obama ever intended to establish a sharp policy disagreement, there is an interesting issue here — should the United States abandon its policy of seeking to “isolate” countries we don’t like by refusing to talk to them unless they first meet a series of preconditions?

This is a standard complaint about modern media coverage of politics, and God knows I’m sympathetic to it. I’d sure like the media to spend more time on substance.

On the other hand, Clinton and Obama themselves didn’t exactly take the chance to elevate this into a scholarly colloquium themselves, did they? Instead we got Clinton calling Obama “naive” and “irresponsible,” and Obama hitting back by accusing Clinton of endorsing a “Bush/Cheney lite” foreign policy. Enlightening stuff, no? Is it any wonder the press covered this as a food fight rather than a serious debate?