candidates flummoxed by meltdown - news at 11 - not

Financial crisis fails to get its just due with TV talking heads

It's hard to know where to start in dissecting the inane debate on the economic crisis that has dominated the presidential race in recent days.

Commentators, particularly of the cable television variety, have probed Sarah Palin's (suspect) chops for running a Fortune 500 company, recounted John McCain's (nonexistent) role in inventing the BlackBerry and repeated Barack Obama's (nebulous) bleatings about "change."

Armed with these scraps of near-news, horse-race junkies -- like the terminally hopped-up Chris Matthews of MSNBC -- then launched new rounds of soulless palavering.

Can Obama capture economically disadvantaged whites? Is the bloom off the Palin rose? Can Washington veteran McCain sell himself as a populist reformer? Can Jill Biden dance the samba?

OK, no one actually raised that last one. But they might as well have, given the substance-lite quality of the political coverage as the nation faces its most unsettling financial storm in memory.

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