QUOTE OF THE DAY….From Michael Bérubé, who says David Brooks is right:

When you write, “We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall,” we know you’re telling the truth, because you’ll be around in the fall telling us precisely how important these things are.

I’ve now watched a bit of the debate on tape, though, and I also agree with Joe Klein about the problems with the second, more policy-heavy hour:

I was as dismayed with the second half of the debate — the “substantive” part — as I was with the first. The ABC moderators clearly didn’t spend much time thinking about creative substantive gambits. They asked banal, lapidary questions, rather than trying to break new ground. They asked the same old Iraq troop withdrawal question, rather than using the skillful interrogation Clinton and Obama deployed during the Petraeus hearings last week as a way to dig deeper toward the heart of the issue. (Question to Clinton: “Last week, General Petraeus said — in response to your question — that the U.S. military was going to support Prime Minister Maliki’s government in its assault against dissident Shi’ites, do you think that’s a wise move? And if not, why do you think Petraeus is moving in that direction?”)…and Charlie Gibson really needs a lesson in capital gains taxation — yes, the revenues go up (temporarily) when the rates come down, but only because traders hold onto the stocks in anticipation of the rate reduction so that they can gain higher profits. And there is an equity question here: should wealth be taxed at a lower rate than work?

I suppose there’s a limit to this kind of stuff: TV audiences who aren’t steeped in the minutiae of current events won’t always be able to follow things like this. Still, there are ways to ask interesting questions that get beyond the banal but are still accessible to mass audiences — not questions that play games with trivia, but ones that bring up unexpected topics and force candidates to think on their feet in interesting ways. Somehow, though, that rarely seems to happen.

Would candidates give us interesting answers if moderators did this? Or would they just immediately pivot back to their stump speeches? Beats me. But it’s worth a try, isn’t it?