The CNBC moderators at last night's GOP debate should be given the Candy Crowley Award for media bias. You remember Crowley, the debate moderator who inserted herself into an exchange between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the 2012 debates, "correcting" Romney when he was right on the facts and the substance and Obama was wrong. The Award is granted to those "journalists" who do their utmost to make GOP candidates look bad while protecting Dem candidates at all cost.
The CNBC moderator's strategy during the debate was:
- pit one candidate against another with aggressive questions that betrayed distaste for both
- spin candidates past actions negatively, and then ask "why" they should even be considered for the presidency
- stay away from any subject (e.g., our national debt, our foreign policy catastrophe, the IRS scandal, etc., etc.) that might allow the GOP candidate to criticize the Democrats
For those readers who think accusations of media bias aren't warranted, ask yourself whether you've encountered or will encounter any the following legitimate questions (in the style of the CNBC moderators) during a Democrat debate:
- Ms. Clinton—Bernie Sanders is a self-described socialist. Do you think that a socialist should be president of the United States? A follow-up, please. Some of Mr. Sanders positions on taxes, and regulations are what many call extreme. Are you in favor of a 90 percent tax rate on "the rich." If not, what specific tax rate do you think is appropriate?
- Mr. Sanders—you traveled to the Soviet Union for your Honeymoon. Based on what you saw there, explain how your model of socialism is somehow different than the Soviet model and how will your proposals for high taxes, more debt, bigger government, and more centralized control allow the United States to avoid the fate of the Soviet Union?
- Ms. Clinton—Based on emails you yourself sent to your family, you understood that the death of four Americans at Benghazi was a terrorist attack within hours. Yet, the next day you lied to bereaved family members as the bodies of their sons were returned home and told them the attack was about a video? Do you regret that lie?
- Mr. Sanders—Do you condone what Hillary Clinton did in lying to bereaved families about Benghazi? Why do you think she and the Obama administration promoted those lies? And finally, is dishonesty an acceptable trait for President of the United States?
- Ms. Clinton—Even after Lois Lerner of the IRS took the fifth before congress, even after clear evidence that the IRS was weaponized to attack opponent of Democrats, the Obama Justice Department found no grounds for an indictment of anyone at the IRS. Do you agree with that position, and do you believe that, as the president stated, there isn't a "smidgen" of evidence that there was wrong-doing?
- Mr. Sanders—you note that the middle class is suffering and income inequality is serious. Democrats have controlled the presidency for 7 years and had complete control of government for 2 of those years. Why aren't you blaming your own party for the economic problems you note, and why should the people trust you, another Democrat, to do anything but continue the policies that you yourself have said are failed?
Going forward, every time a "journalist" asks a GOP candidate a gotcha question, the candidate should response by handing him/her a list like the one I provided above, smile, and calmly say, "I'll answer your question gladly as soon as you or one of your colleagues asks Sanders or Clinton any one of these questions.
This comment from Ben Domenech summarizes the core issues nicely:
The problem with last night’s moderators was not an ideological problem, it was a hack problem. Hacks ask questions like “are you a comic book version of a campaign” or “how was liquidating your retirement account indicative of your irresponsibility”, serious liberals ask questions like “tell me about how your Obamacare replacement has a possibility of working – no, really, tell me.” There is a difference, and it is not about bias. It is about a modicum of seriousness and respect and intelligence.Well, "dumb" and very biased to boot with no journalistic integrity that might lead to evenhandedness.
This morning John Harwood is still, STILL tweeting that he accurately cited Tax Foundation analysis of Marco Rubio’s tax plan after the head of the Tax Foundation said he didn’t. We’re not mad at moderators for being tough – we’re mad at them for being dumb. There’s a difference.
And this from Richard Fernandez characterizes the debates as a faux stage play and also brings up the specter of Candy Crowley:
... What Cruz and Rubio were challenging [in criticizing the biased moderators directly] were the rules of the play. The pertinent fact is that when an arbiter is no longer accepted by both parties as impartial, the conversation may continue, but only as argument, no longer as arbitration. The narrative collapses, unconstrained by the covers of a book.In thinking about it, he's absolutely right.
The swordplay on stage which once the audience could safely regard as spectators has suddenly erupted into a real fight in their midst.
It’s interesting to contrast Cruz and Rubio’s challenge to the passive, almost deferential way with which Mitt Romney accepted the sandbagging of Candy Crowley in 2012 during his debate with Barack Obama. That moment may be remembered by some for its infamy, but it was also the last time the old pieties held sway; the final occasion when the conventions were silently accepted by those concerned.