But while I wouldn't want to say that "tough questioning" is a bad thing, making toughness the goal is perverse. The goal should be to inform the audience. Climate change, for example, is a hugely important question. As a result, candidates ought to be subjected to questions about their climate change plans. And as it happens, the plans released by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards are all based on good science and good economics. So asking them questions aimed at elucidating their plans shouldn't lead to any embarrassing incidents. Shouldn't, that is, unless the candidates are unprepared to discuss their own plans in an intelligent manner which really would be worth knowing about.
Now, I think that climate change is a worthy topic and there should be tough questions asked about it along with every topic a politician should deal with. Frankly, I wish some moderateor actually knew something about my business, mortgages, and could undress some of the ridiculous plans being offered. That is not the point. Just because Yglesias thinks that climate change is a more worthy topic doesn't mean it is not. It also doesn't mean that asking questions about illegal immigration isn't worthy or enlightening. I think everyone was enlightened by Hillary's non stance.
John McCain, by contrast, might or might not end up embarrassed by serious questions about his plan, which moves in the right direction but on a schedule that's too slow and in a way that's too inefficient. Serious questions would give him the opportunity to make the case for half-measures and whether or not he winds up embarrassing himself would turn on whether or not he can give a convincing rationale for what he's doing -- which is at it should be. His Republican counterparts, by contrast, would almost certainly wind up embarrassed by serious questions about their views of climate change since their policies are badly at odds with reality.I have no doubt that Yglesias would perceive McCain as embarrassed by a question regarding climate change, but that doesn't mean everyone will. The problem is that Hillary was nearly universally perceived as stumbling on that question. Thus, there is no defending her. Yglesias is left to attack the messenger and work on tortured logic to excuse what is frankly the definition of a gaffe.