On yesterday’s pre-debate episode of Hardball, Chris Matthews and his favorite Damsel Duo, Salon’s Joan Walsh and IWF president Michelle Bernard—he brings them on to talk about women’s issues-related stuff; the former skews liberal, and the latter, conservative—discussed the precarious gender dynamic that was to be a part of last night’s debate. Matthews, taking advantage of the fact that he had two highly intelligent, well-educated women in his midst, and apparently having heard the rumor that the debate would be seated, rather than podium-ed, knew what he was going to ask them. “Here’s a great question,” he said. “It’s not in the Brooks Brothers book of etiquette, but I’m going to ask it anyway.”

Here was Matthews’s’ Great Question about the Biden/Palin dynamic: “Does he dare reach over—instinctively or well-trained or whatever—and help her with her chair from behind?”

Yeah. Somewhere, Edward R. Murrow is cringing. And: “I think he helps her,” they agreed. Which, you know: riveting.

And also, in retrospect, a complete waste of time. Because, of course…there were no chairs last night. The candidates stood the entire time. Rendering an already silly exchange utterly, ultimately useless.

[video courtesy of MediaMatters, which did the editing, but nb: Kit Seelye is nowhere to be found on it]

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.