I remember thinking it was sort of odd to have a couple one-off uses of ordinary voter question when it didn't really seem like it was part of the format. But I was too distracted by the general inanity of the debate to focus on this issue too closely.
Well, it turns out TPM Reader JL did give some thought. And he came up with something very interesting (see JL's post at the DrexelDems blog). He did a little googling and found out Nash is pretty popular with the traveling press now in Pennsylvania. It turns out McCabe was featured in an April 4th story in the Times which begins like this ...
Ask whom she might vote for in the coming presidential primary election and Nash McCabe, 52, seems almost relieved to be able to unpack the dossier she has been collecting in her head.
It is not about whom she likes, but more a bill of particulars about why she cannot vote for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
"How can I vote for a president who won't wear a flag pin?" Mrs. McCabe, a recently unemployed clerk typist, said in a booth at the Valley Dairy luncheonette in this quiet, small city in western Pennsylvania.
Mr. Obama has said patriotism is about ideas, not flag pins.
"I watch him on TV," Mrs. McCabe said. "I keep looking for that lapel pin."
Now, it does seem like McCabe is not a fan of Sen. Obama's. And I think we can assume that it's not a coincidence that McCabe managed to show up featured in the Times and also as the sole outside questioner in the ABC debate. Presumably, a researcher for ABC or Gibson saw the piece in the Times, figured, hey, this lady hates Obama and is seriously ginned up about the lapel issue. Let's send a camera crew Obama and film her slamming Obama to his face. It'll be great in the debate.
Now, as JL noted in his email to TPM, I'm not sure precisely what's any less ethical about finding Nash at random to come on and slam Obama about whether he believes in the flag versus seeing her in the Times and saying, 'Wow, this woman clearly has it in for Obama. Wouldn't that make for great TV giving her a chance to crap on Obama's head in front of a nationwide audience?
I think there's something wrong with it. And part of it is that you usually assume that these citizen questions come from people who are at least partly conflicted about their support if not undecided. But it does reinforce my sense that the disgraceful nature of the debate wasn't just something that came together wrong, some iffy ideas taken to far, but basically engineered to be crap from the ground up.