Bigotry and the You-Tube Debate

By now everyone has heard the furor over the planted questions at the You-Tube Republican debate and CNN’s clueless response to the controversy. CNN, having stated before the debate that it was to be a “debate of their party” simply proved themselves to be tone deaf to the heart of a conservative debate. That is what bigotry does to intelligence.

In present usage "bigotry" is usually used as a perjorative, giving the word an essentially static emotional baggage which obscures its capacity to inform. For that reason when I use it I always define the word so that anyone may see how it is being applied. From that point if the reader disagrees with my usage the discussion can proceed from the definition rather than the empty emotion. That definition is- "1. That prejudice of which an individual is unaware and may be incapable of becoming aware even when substantial evidence of prejudice is presented. 2. A cognitive structure or habit which permits people of good will to fail to recognize their own harmful acts." I like this definition because it is more informative about the fundamental psychological foundations of a phenomenon that affects us all than the almost infinitely judgemental common usage. It also opens me up to self-examination when I say things like my comparison of government liberals to "Carpathian bloodsuckers", as a commentor pointed out a couple of weeks ago.

To conservatives the CNN response to what must be chalked up either as subterfuge or incompetence was almost comical. Questions they represented as having been from "undecided Republicans" were easily sourced, within minutes, using the search engine sponsored the owners of You-Tube as being from Democrat operatives, political radicals, or far-left-wing activists. At first they said if they had only known the man they paid to fly to the venue was the vice-chair of one of Hillary Clinton's steering committees they would not have used his question. (Though it took more time to buy him a ticket on the Google website than it took conservative bloggers to vet him...) Then they claimed, after sources of several other such questions were revealed, to have chosen questions which are important to the Republican selection process, though these issues are demonstrably not even on the radar of Republicans as judged by even a casual effort at listening to conservative talk radio. At the same time they ignored many questions on such basic Republican fare as maintaining current reductions of middle-class taxes and philosophies for border enforcement such as fences and supporting border patrol agents.

In an interview on Laura Ingraham's radio show after the You-Tube debate Mike Huckabee noted that of over 900 minutes of debates among the Republicans candidates less than three minutes had been given to questions on taxes. A similar amount had been given to border issues. This is the nature of bigotry. The largely liberal media members either asking or selecting questions simply can't imagine the validity of the concerns Republicans and conservatives really express when they are permitted to ask questions of their own. They will choose questions, really voiced by Democrats, about the Confederate flag or gays in the military, and never give a thought to questions on the nature of the rule of law in a constitutional Republic, the relative powers of the states vs. the federal government, or a discussion of ways to eliminate the I.R.S.

Seeking to imply a balance in this controversy the left-leaning Media Matters has sought to claim an undisclosed right wing bias on the part of CNN. Their claim is that Campbell Brown is biased because "she is married to Republican strategist Dan Senor." This is the same Campell Brown over whose comments the right-leaning Citizens United is threatening to sue CNN for calling them a "right wing militia". Of course even James Carville is married to a Republican strategist (Mary Matalin) which otherwise seems, inexplicably, not to raise flags in Media Matter's eyes.

In another post Media Matters posits what it seems sure must be Republican "gotcha" questions posed to Democrats. These include-

QUESTION: "My name is Marcus Benson from Minneapolis, and I'd like to know, if the Democrats come into office, are my taxes going to rise like usually they do when a Democrat gets into office?"

"QUESTION: Good evening, America. My name is Jered Townsend from Clio, Michigan. To all the candidates: Tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe. This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban. Please tell me your views. Thank you."

It is possible these could be Republicans speaking (The second question would be as inflammatory and sound as absurdly worded in a Republican debate, though. We surely would think it was a "plant"), but could they not also be the kind of people who voted for the likes of Harold Ford Jr.? Without those openly "conservative" Democrats the party has no majority in either the Senate or the House. (My late next-door neighbor, who told me he'd vote for a 'yellow dog' [but not a black man] if it was a Democrat, also told me if the government came to take his gun he'd give them the ammunition first- "hot".) Is it impossible for a Democrat to be concerned about increased taxes or whether they get to keep their guns?

However Media Matters does not stop here. Consider this purported "gotcha"-

QUESTION: "Hi, my name's Mary; and my name is Jen -- and we're from Brooklyn, New York. If you were elected president of the United States, would you allow us to be married to each other?"
On what grounds does anyone think that is not a perfectly legitimate question coming from a well recognized Democratic constituency? How does it hurt Democrats for that constituency to have its voice heard in its own words? Also, if these are "planted" questions, who were the Republican or conservative activists that planted them?

One of the most interesting reactions I heard to the You-Tube debate debacle was that of Glenn Beck whose evening news show is broadcast on CNN, but is produced by an independent company. In an interview with Michelle Malkin, who "outed" a number of the You-Tube agenda questioners, Beck said the following-

"When you look at these questions, first of all, a conservative wouldn't say, "are you going to prosecute the moms, you know, the people who are going to have the abortion?" That's not a question from a conservative. A conservative wouldn't phrase it that way in the first place. They would be talking about how pro life you are, et cetera, et cetera."
He's right about that, but Beck, after a discussion of the standards that on-air personalities at CNN must meet to get information on the air, and then comment on how an agenda can still affect their coverage, goes on later to ask Malkin this question-
"Does this show the hypocrisy of the Democrats who will not go and face a debate on Fox News, all of the questions performed by credible journalists? They complain about the unfairness of the questions of Tim Russert and yet at the same time they will plant someone from their camp to ask questions and yet the Republicans take it. They do it. Which one of these is more open to an honest debate?"
Here Beck is speaking to the fear Democrats have of the very sort of questions rank and file Republicans might really ask- just the ones we NEVER hear in a debate moderated by liberals because they are about the role of government itself or how government saps away the political power belonging to the people and the states as opposed to some hot-button issue that undermines a clear examination of that foundational issue. Talking to a caller on his radio show two days after the You-Tube debate Beck referred to this as seeking, in Republican presidential hopefuls, "foundation repairmen rather than interior decorators."

I believe that bigotry, as I have defined it, is native to all of us. It is inherent in the manner in which we perceive the world so we must be aware of the influence it can have over our thinking. I believe the questions chosen for the You-Tube debate by the staff at CNN were influenced by a well-meaning, but inescapable, bigotry concerning both the nature of what they would have government be and the manner in which they have been taught to frame the telling of stories about the consequences of government action.

Look at the questions which have raised this furor carefully and you will see the work of what Glen Beck called "decorators". They affect our immediate psychological environment but do not illuminate how the foundations hold up the whole structure of that environment. A question about the Confederate flag seeks, blatantly, to attach a vitriolic symbol to a party that has never stood by it. A question about what the charge might be against a woman seeking an abortion is designed to pull an emotional string, not lead to a deep examination of society's role in the protection of the most innocent, or of the fiat power asserted against, and seized from, the people of all the states by a court that outlaws state protections of that most innocent constituency. It is just this sort of discussion of the role of government, the powers of the people, the limitations of the government's "enumerated" powers, and the necessity of holding to the rule of law in border enfocement that conservatives want to see their future presidential hopefuls have. And it is just such a discussion liberal bigotries would have us think too trivial to provide.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at December 1, 2007 7:13 PM
Comment #239803

This is the essential logic of the Republican approach to the media:

We look bad in the media.
We believe we are right anyways.
The media must be at fault for our image problems.
Therefore we must constantly defend ourselves against media bias.

Sometimes you will look bad for reasons of substance. If your working theory, though, is that your negative image is due to media bias, even image problems that stem from real concerns can become the focus of a media strategy aimed at minimizing your image problem.

While you can keep the lid on the pot for some time, the pot will still boil over, and will do so more violently for the pent up pressures.

Hence, 2006. Hence, as is likely, 2008.

Now your problem here is that potentially, some Republicans got asked questions by Democrats, supposedly (according to you) designed to make the Republicans look like stereotypical wingnuts.

Trouble is, most of what will make the Republicans appear to be doctrinaire dogmatists, radical and fanatical, is their own rather rigid ideology, and their own feet being planted in their own mouths.

When nobody will acknowledge fiscal reality and admit sometimes tax hikes are necessary, Then how do you think you look? When only a fringe candidate with no chance of winning will admit Iraq is a fiasco, overall, how do you think you look? When you guys start talking on the stage about invading Iran with people screaming for relief from our invasion of Iraq, how do you think you make yourselves look?

You have Republican candidates with positions that were historically socially liberal rushing to adopt theocon positions to lock up their nomination. You have these folks justifying positions that are to the right of what mainstream Americans agree with.

You folks have made the extremists of these positions the foundation of your party, and then you complain when some of them actually come around and act like the stereotypical thinkers you’ve encouraged them to be.

When you have main candidates saying they’ll lock Muslims out of the cabinet, your problem is not the media. When you have everybody falling over each other to satisfy the religious right, your problem is not the media. When the Club for Growth or the NRA, or the border-phobes have a virtually monopoly on your party’s spread of positions, you’re not likely to come across as moderate.

Lets say somebody does pull a dirty trick and gives you a stereotypical question like that. You know, you could try giving a thoughtful, novel answer to that, taking a position that doesn’t play to the notion that you’re just telling your base what they want to hear.

If you guys are not willing to potentially alienate your base to appeal to the average person, then being asked a question by a liberal plant will be the least of your worries.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 1, 2007 9:18 PM
Comment #239805

I just want to know: since when can’t democrats or anybody ask a question of any candidate??

Posted by: womanmarine at December 1, 2007 10:19 PM
Comment #239808

Huckabee’s comment about three minutes spents on taxes accross 900 is horrible, shocking. Is there any web page that breaks down these questions for both debates, based on category or topic?

Posted by: Edge at December 1, 2007 11:57 PM
Comment #239810

I can’t imagine the audacity (read with sarcasm) of someone asking either party a question that could be pertinent to the other 70% of the voters. Perhaps the focus of your posting should have been about how even at debates the message is being filtered. Instead of trying to make this out to be the same tired complaint that there is a media based bigotry towards the Right. Perhaps you could have argued for an actual debate. One where the questions aren’t prescreened and each candidate are given an opportunity to answer every question.

Could you imagine a series of debates, each one focused on a different topic. Where we could actually get some insight about each candidate. Only in America…

Posted by: Cube at December 2, 2007 12:48 AM
Comment #239812

Today, politicians want to hand pick the audience, only answer questions that are worded just right from the party faithful, and try to get a third of the voters on a straight party line. Then, villify the opposition with every possible dirty trick, inuendo and falsehood to get the rest of the votes needed to win an election.

The two parties should realize that this strategy is not going to work very well when such a large segment of the voters consider themselves independents and are listening keenly to both sides.

Posted by: jlw at December 2, 2007 2:00 AM
Comment #239820

How dare they! How dare anyone who isn’t a Republican ask a question. Why can’t they be like the White House and pay people to impersonate reporters and ask softball questions?

Posted by: ElliottBay at December 2, 2007 3:29 AM
Comment #239822

Cube, that would be awesome. Why can’t both sides get behind that idea? I think both sides would agree to the fact they want more professional debates. These youtube debates are complete jokes. The only thing I learned from the last one was Paul’s airtime has gone up, which I guess means he’s raising some cash. It’s almost like watching a reality tv show.

Posted by: andy at December 2, 2007 6:17 AM
Comment #239828

I am reading these posts with great amusement.

You see, I remember the Watergate hearings and, especially, the testimony of Daniel Segretti.

Democrats were uniformly outraged at his actions in behalf of the re-election of Nixon.

Now, with “planted” audience members with questions obviously “scripted” by the Democratic party, you all seem ambivalent to these obviously “Segretti-esque” tactics. Where is your moral outrage? Where are your cries of “not fair”?

Do you care to explain to me…in excruciating detail…why it is wrong for Republicans to resort to “dirty tricks”, but it’s A-OK for Democrats to do the same?

Posted by: Jim T at December 2, 2007 10:42 AM
Comment #239830

There seem to be a lot of responses to this post along the lines of “what’s wrong with Democrats asking questions of the candidates?” The issue here isn’t just that Democrats asked questions; it’s that campaign operatives from the Democratic side were placed in the debate who asked questions not from the point of view of people in the process of deciding who to vote for in the primaries, but from those who’ve already committed to the other party.

Much has been said about Keith Kerr and his ties to the Clinton campaign - For crying out loud; the man is on Hillary’s LGBT steering committee - but as bad as that is there’s more to it. CNN chose which questions to air out of thousands of submissions, and the ones they chose reflected a bias on part of those doing the choosing.

Keep in mind the purpose of the debate was supposed to be to inform the decision making of Republican primary voters. What we got were questions not only more appropriate to a general election debate, but those with a preconceived notion as to the issues Republican voters care about from people who’ve already made their minds up that they’re for the other party.

Also, a major point of my post on the debate was the hypocrisy expressed by those who only a month ago were criticizing Tim Russert for supposedly piling on Hillary Clinton when she stumbled on the question of whether illegal immigrants should be granted driver’s licenses. Ask yourself this: Would you think it’s no big deal if Tim Russert had not only asked tough questions, but also got them directly from the GOP?

Posted by: Bilby at December 2, 2007 11:33 AM
Comment #239832

CNN appeared to be more concerned about getting in the maximum number of you-tube vidoes rather than on the candidates answers, especially during the last half hour. At times there would be only one response from one candidate before CNN ran the next video. This wasn’t a debate, it was a platform for showing videos. Terrible format, hope it is not repeated by either party. Can any of the libs on the site explain why the Dems are so afraid of going on Fox? Surely, Fox is no more slanted in their views than CNN. Is it because they are afraid of the questions they will be asked? If so, how will the eventual nominee ever face the scrutiny certain to come from all quarters? I want my president to have enough confidence to face any question from any American or world leader.

Posted by: Jim at December 2, 2007 11:39 AM
Comment #239845

“with questions obviously “scripted” by the Democratic party”

See… more right-wing incapacity to understand a news story and what has and hasn’t been alleged.

No one can show (and it’s ridiculous to suggest) that the Democratic party wrote those questions.

Did dem activists submit questions to youtube for the republican debate? yup. That’s all we know. Some people uploaded some videos and cnn decided to use them. To say the questions were “obviously scripted” is obviously stupid.

Furthermore, why do you care if a democrat asks a republican a question? Have George W. Bush’s pre-screened town-hall audiences now become the norm for all republican communications?

Do questioners need to sign “loyalty oaths” before getting to ask a candidate a question?

You right-wingers are acting like parodies of yourselves. Stop whining and defend your ideas, not some made up right to only be questioned by people who already support you.

Posted by: ME at December 2, 2007 3:00 PM
Comment #239846

Cube has really hit on something. Instead of putting debates together based on party affiliation only to have the partizans squabble over how they were subverted by the media (and let’s face it. Hillary avoids the media like a plague, too.) Arrange them around specific issues, or groups of issues, instead.

The immigration debate would include the many parameters of that issue such as border enforcement per-se, employer sanctions, rule-of-law issues, government services to illegals,court efforts to thwart broadly supported referenda, etc. The tax issues could be handled similarly.

One essential point is not that we look bad in the media. It is that if one’s political enemies are the only source of illumination for one’s message one can be certain the things that reflect well on the message will not be lit.

Think of the challenge you would face if your avenue to the public ear went through me and I could choose both the format and the questions you would be asked. However honestly I pledged myself to a fair airing of your beliefs I could not rid myself, or my presentation of you, of my bias. This single, deliberate, aspect of his show, far more than his actual political views, is why Democrats and so many in the media really despise Rush Limbaugh. He presents their views from his perspective! Lo and behold! That makes them look bad!

Democrats love to complain their message is too nuanced to come off well in the media. OK, as someone who has tried to explain the conservative message that a rule of law that restricts courts to the written words of the law empowers the people far more than the “rule of law” that says judges simply are the law, I can point out that merely reading this sentance takes more than the ten seconds politically pithy statements usually get on the evening news. How much worse is it if the people choosing questions filter out the ones that really give candidates a chance to get to the heart of the issues we would like to spend rare expository time on?

But my other point is more important. I intentionally used the word bigotry to characterize the political climate today, not to point a bloody finger at Democrats, or to cast the light away from Republicans, but to find a way to illuminate the psychology underpinning the deep polarizations of today.

CNN’s incapacity to see the validity of the questions one could derive from listening for a day to callers on conservative talk radio should be recognized for what it is. They have psychological blinders that prevent them from seeing the foundations of a point of view that threatens their core beliefs. When most conservatives address the global warming issue they put on the same blinders.

On our most psychologically sensitive issues it is not that we can not see. It is that our minds tell us we must not see. This bit of basic human social thinking, though it is crucial to the committment one must be able to show to the tribe in primitive cultures, is ultimately a deeply self-destructive way to do modern politics.

Unfortumately this is precisely the mechanism political science is engineering the eternal campaigns of 21st century American politics to exploit.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 2, 2007 3:26 PM
Comment #239847

No, the point is that those choosing the questions AVIODED the ones that best illustrated the Republican positions, and just as clearly used ones that ran with the ideas Democrats use to prejudice audiences against Republicans. It is obvious that CNN didn’t want to know if the people who sent in those well-scripted messages might be the people who so carefully script the stuff CNN hears all the time. They simply imagined that stuff bubbles up from the grass-roots and ran with it.

To quote Gomer Pyle, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 2, 2007 3:37 PM
Comment #239850

Stephen wrote-

“When nobody will acknowledge fiscal reality and admit sometimes tax hikes are necessary, Then how do you think you look? When only a fringe candidate with no chance of winning will admit Iraq is a fiasco, overall, how do you think you look? When you guys start talking on the stage about invading Iran with people screaming for relief from our invasion of Iraq, how do you think you make yourselves look?”

1. We will look fine to Republican voters because we understand the reasons Republicans believe those things.

2. If it were possible to have a clear explanation of the issues as Republicans understand them when Democrats were watching there is a substantial danger they might understand them, too.
For example, tax collections over the last seven years have grown more with tax reductions than they did during the Clinton administration with tax increases. The deficits grew because Republican congresses broke their essential promise to hold the line on spending, which is why Republican voters like myself have been so angry with them.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 2, 2007 3:57 PM
Comment #239862

Isn’t politicians supposed to be skilled in taking whatever people’s whatever question and always having a response to it?

Not anymore?!
What? They requires what!? Knowing questions in order to prepare their responses?

Sigh. What happened to politician who were *just* answering what they think, not what their coach think they should said???

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 2, 2007 6:27 PM
Comment #239863

Sorry about that. It is DONALD Segretti, not Daniel. My bad.

I just find it really interesting that CNN (Clinton News Network) in the last debate threw nothing but softballs and handed out free passes like they were candy…but when it comes to the Rep debate…no such luck. I cannot help but believe that CNN purposefully and with malice aforethought loaded the questioners with Clinton, Obama and Edwards operatives.

Now, I want everyone here to repeat after me…


Posted by: Jim T at December 2, 2007 8:12 PM
Comment #239864

Once again, sorry. I meant to say…

“I just find it really interesting that CNN (Clinton News Network) in the last Democraticdebate threw nothing but softballs and handed out free passes like they were candy…”

Posted by: Jim T at December 2, 2007 8:14 PM
Comment #239871

Just love how the new media is debunking the bias news coverage from the MSM. Minutes after the debate, bloggers uncovered that the General worked for Clinton. Anderson Cooper was like “Um…Bum…What…We didn’t know that…Our apologies…Had we’d known”! How can that network not know? The answer is they can and they were caught. Check out this article: CNN: Corrupt News Network

Posted by: rahdigly at December 2, 2007 11:08 PM
Comment #239879


I read it. Looks like CNN can’t catch a break with friend or foe. Calling Pew “nonpartizan”, though, is kind of like calling Hillary gender neutral.

What is clear as a bell is that CNN has embarrassed the whole news industry. I would suggest that Tim Rutten and the L.A. Times don’t yet have a firm handle on why they are embarrassed, but it is good news indeed that they are.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 3, 2007 9:35 AM
Comment #239883

For the “well they should answer any question” crowd, They DID answer the questions. That’s not the issue.

CNN had 5,000 videos to choose from. They selected 34 for the broadcast, and by doing so they framed the debate. When was the last time “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was discussed on Watchblog? And yet they flew Kerr to the debate, gave him a microphone, when it quits working rushed him another, and gave him and that issue more air time than taxes or Iraq.

Then there were the “wingnut” caricatures: The gun throwing NRA member (kudos to Hunter for calling that one out), the flag waiving redneck, the bible toting evangelical, and the “log cabin” republicans. Those videos seem to have been selected not for the content of the question but for how someone on the left might view the “typical” right winger. Certainly the 2nd Amendment is important to judicial nominations and the Republican party turning on Larry Craig is a legitimate issue, but that wasn’t the purpose of the videos. The purpose was obviously to reinforce liberal stereotypes of Republican voters so that swing voters could reconsider who it is they are associating themselves with by choosing GOP candidates.

Oh, and the icing on the cake was when they asked the first panelist on their “undecided Republican” panel who they were voting for. I loved it when she said “I’m voting for Edwards”!

You don’t have to compare this to the job they did on the Democratic debate to see the blatant agenda interjection. And they are right to be called on it by the new media and the old. The only good thing is that CNN has forever reinforced its caricature (as painted by Limbaugh) as the Clinton News Network.

Posted by: George in SC at December 3, 2007 10:57 AM
Comment #239884

It really is a bitch when candidates, republican or democrat, have to respond to non-scripted questions. Are there any candidates out there capable of holding a discussion with a person of any political persuasion without claims of bias? This whole argument is absurd. Everyone knows that CNN favors democrat viewpoints the same as Fox favors republican viewpoints. To blame one or the other for the problems of the individual parties is ridiculous. Republicans and their political arrogance and hypocrisies are their own worst enemies. Democrats and their failure to aggressively pursue wanted change is seen as spineless making them their own worst enemy.

Neither party is perfect or is at all times particularly better for our country. Republicans made a run at political dominance and it failed. Numerous scandals and a huge mistake of a war awakened the voting public to a party so full of itself it thought it could do no wrong and in its own self absorbed arrogance failed to see that they were not serving the needs of the American people. Or that it even mattered. The voting public may be a little slow to catch on, but they certainly are not stupid. And they most definitely do not like to feel used.

Change is necessary to correct the imbalances created when one party is allowed to run the show unchecked for too long. As I see it dominant party change is the only effective method of keeping corruption in government somewhat in check. To me it sure seems absurd that we as a people have so little faith in our government that we have come to accept that a degree of corruption in government is just part of the process and acceptable as an everyday practice. Yes it seems that the people who are responsible for creating and protecting our laws are not necessarily expected to live by them. And it has become acceptable for them to create rules which work in their favor making them immune to laws which the rest of us would most likely be held accountable for.

So you see Fox or CNN are not the problems facing either party or its candidates. It is the questionable operating tactics of both parties which put them in jeopardy with the public from time to time. CNN and Fox simply cater to a particular political culture group. If I want to explore the strengths of a republican candidate I would look to Fox News, and CNN for their weaknesses. For dem strengths, and republican weakness CNN. And of course I would have to find some compromise because I know with certainty that neither are going to give an unbiased complete balanced picture of the true facts.

It is time for republicans to quit whining about biased media outlets, it is simply old news and not the root cause of their problems. The image of a party of corruption that can not be trusted is one created by themselves through years of unobstructed negligence. My guess is that it will take time and demands of change from their voting constituency to actually improve their image. Staying the course only implies that the republican party is claiming denial and will continue down the same old dirty path of corruption and deception.

Posted by: RickIL at December 3, 2007 11:26 AM
Comment #239885

Jim T-
If the campaigns did indeed do this, it still falls short of what Segretti did. Segretti, if you recall helped forge letters representing themselves as the official campaign communications of Nixon’s rivals. What he did was criminal fraud, and the contents of what he faked had nothing to do with any real interest of his.

Jim, the guy who asked the question may not have fully disclosed who he was associated with, but I can’t seem to find any documentation saying that Democrats, much less those working for them, could not submit questions.

And what’s the dirty trick in the question he asked? Even if you know he’s a HRC staffer, he still can honestly say that he has an interest of his own above and beyond his connections to the HRC campaign, an interest that in fact could have motivated both his submission and who he works for. There’s no evidence yet to suggest that he was even asked to do this. Yet of course, it MUST be a conspiracy on the liberal’s part, because that’s the only ready explanation you folks have for bad press.

Let’s get some perspective here: This isn’t some staffer criminally forging a letter meant to mislead the media about what a candidate believes and is doing. This is a staffer asking a question that he has a personal stake in, that might lead the candidates to say things they may later have to explain to a dubious public.

In short, this is an honest question whose only potential damage is what the candidates could do to themselves answering it.

Nobody said anything about these questions having to come from those interested in voting in the primaries. Nothing of the literature I have read says that. Additionally, I don’t see where only Republicans end up being the only audience members worth considering. After all, not all states with primaries restrict voting during primaries according to party.

The Republicans seem to feel entitled to good press. They’re constantly looking for reasons not to believe that they’re doing something wrong or falling out of sync with what the voters really think. Result? They are dramatically out of tune with what the American people want and desire, and that is reflected in how defensive they are about being asked these uncomfortable questions.

Why should we dignify an obvious Right-Wing Propaganda outlet with our presence, treating them like a regular news network? If the dog barks at you through the fence, and batters the fence boards when you walk by, should you go into it’s year aand expect it not to try and take a chunk out of your backside, or worse?

As Tim Russert and other moderators have demonstrated, it doesn’t take a Right-Wing advocate to grill us within an inch of our lives. We don’t keep our distance from FOX because it’s likely to be tough on us, we keep our distance because FOXNews is more or less a propaganda outlet for the other party, run by a former political strategist stuffed to the gills with folks who have little respect for us or what we believe. Even if they were on their best behavior during the debate, just showing up would dignify them for what they were not: a balanced, bipartisan news network. Other news organizations earn the public’s trust as outlets for journalism, so we show up when they ask us. We know they have to uphold a reputation for fairness, and that they’re not part of some political operation with a conflict of interest in our regard. We have no guarantees of safety from tough questions, but then, who should? Only authoritarians believe that the people who lead should be shielded from criticism or scrutiny.

Lee Jamison-
The reason I despise Rush Limbaugh, is that he’s a bastard. He simply says to his audience what it takes to appeal to their worst prejudices about what we believe, and what our motivations are. He is willing to slime anybody and everybody, from a Parkinson’s afflicted actor, to a twelve year old boy, to a wounded veteran of this war, to ensure that his political point of view triumphs, and that the party faithful remain comfortable in there convictions.

His kind of sociopathic disregard for others, and his reckless disregard of getting he facts right is especially hateful to those who believe that there are lines that should not be crossed to win political arguments, who value the journalistic ethics of carefully checked facts, conclusions, and allegations.

He doesn’t simply make us look bad. He defames our reputations, viciously slanders us, and vilifies us to no end. He’s not making us look bad by exposing our foibles, but instead by using a gift of gab to weave a superficially persuasive picture(at least to those who trust him) of us and our party.

If you want to see the true center of gravity for this polarization, look no further than him. For the last generation, the Republicans and Right-Wingers have come to rely more and more on a system of media outlets that allow them to pay less and less attention to what people think and know outside the party. Instead of opening up the party to that sort of feedback, the Republicans have bubbled it away, hoping to keep ideology pure, sacred beliefs unchallenged. The MSM is too biased to trust, they say, they’re out to get us, undermine our values. They engineered a network of thinktanks, media outlets, and an entire approach to politics that leads party members away from the media that most othe people attend to in common.

Result? A party that is stuck in a closed loop of its own devising. Result of that? It’s like your party is on a different planet from the rest of America, even the independents. Whole paradigms have shifted in public opinion, but having successfully convinced themselves otherwise, they continue to push policies increasingly distrusted and even despised by the general public.

The Republicans must let themselves put down roots into the mainstream of American culture once again. They must come to the general debates within the culture understanding what drives people’s views of the issues. They must resign themselves to an imperfect peace with the rest of the culture, to the reality that they cannot force their views on others, but must persuade them, and do so honestly and respectfully, if they hope to undo the damage that years of hostility toward mainstream America has done.

The funny thing is that Lou Dobbs is a sop to the rabid right that your folks have alienated, the isolationist and the border security fanatics. So in essence, the bias in the questions, if it exists, came from your own party!

You can’t win for losing.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 3, 2007 12:02 PM
Comment #239889

Jim T, I think the better question is why Republicans don’t seem to care at all when someone like Bush stocks his question and answer “town hall” meetings with hundreds of hand-picked questioners or runs advertisements as news items. How can Republicans support that, and then turn around and whine like babies when a few Democrats ask their candidates a couple questions. Puh-leeze.

Posted by: Max at December 3, 2007 12:37 PM
Comment #239894

I have had fun with many of these responses by replacing the word Republican for Democrat and CNN for Fox. Then, when I read the response it makes great sense. It is interesting that the man who cries most loudly, “I am not a liar” is usually the biggest liar in the bunch. Thanks! Jim

Posted by: Jim at December 3, 2007 2:21 PM
Comment #239897

Your entire diatribe on Rush Limbaugh was perhaps the clearest exposition of the very heart of my article that any writer could hope for. I believe you believe every word of it, which at least relieves the statement of libelous intentions.

Those who do listen, even from time to time as opposed to getting what he says from Media Matters or, have heard in great detail exactly what Rush really said about each of the incidents above (including your wildly mischaracterized “wounded veteran”) and the media frauds attempted against him in each instance.

As to the “reckless disregard” for facts you allege, I have personally heard him correct himself on-air literally dozens of times (I first started listening in 1988) when he made statements which proved to be false, or which could not be verified. I have a great regard for the power of the media to do good and will usually draw my own material from mainstream sources. (Though most reporting is pretty factual it’s not hard to find the bias anyway.) The vast majority of Rush’s sources are, likewise, mainstream outlets. He just takes the same information and explores it from his point of view.

Outside of science (where he is horrible) he does a pretty good job of explaining where he comes from. From there you can check the sources if you are skeptical. I do.

Furthermore, you act as though the mainstream media always gets their own facts straight. Ever heard of Valerie Plame? How often did you hear that Patrick Fitzgerald knew from the first day he was a special prosecutor that his witch hunt detail knew Richard Armitage was the leaker which they sought? It takes a little hunting even to this day, though the news was documented by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Instead the media has continued to report Scooter Libby was prosecuted for obstruction of justice in a probe to find the leaker- AN OUTRIGHT LIE! How about reporting on the supposedly “discredited reporting” of exchanges of uranium Joe Wilson supposedly exposed (only he didn’t because the exchange really did happen). That whole story was a big fat C.Y.A. falsehood contrived out of a sincere belief it was possible to put Karl Rove in prison- on SOMETHING.

As an avowed fact-checker do you ever get a shiver from things like that, or reports of roving mobs and mass murder in New Orleans after Katrina? Perhaps, as you say, media may never get their facts wrong, but sometimes they just can’t get everyone to play along on what those facts ought to be.

Every once in a while we need someone like Rush or Fox News or Laura Ingraham to tell us when those things happen.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 3, 2007 2:40 PM
Comment #239905

Want to see a very comprehensive archive of debate footage that includes all the candidates?

I’ve been creating this new page, check it out:

Posted by: PaulD at December 3, 2007 4:22 PM
Comment #239939


Interesting page. Do the bars indicate the volume of information in each category? It would be a sad commentary on our concern for, say, civil liberties were it so.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 4, 2007 9:57 AM
Comment #239940

Anticipating that someone would try to call me on facts for my last post I thought it expedient to present up some of my sources for my claims that- 1. Joe Wilson did not disprove reports that Iraq was seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger, that- 2. Patrick Fitzgerald intended to hide his immediate knowledge of Richard Armitage’s role in the “Plamegate” affair even from the jury that convicted Scooter Libby, that- 3. the New York Times was early to the process of revealing Armitage’s role that- 4. the Washington Post could not have not known of Armitage’s role, since it was a communication with their own columnist, Robert Novak, that started the whole affair, that- 5. “respected” reporters in the mainstream media knew the story was, at best, a confabulation, and that- 6. the story continues to be falsely reported as an investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity though every informed reporter knows where the leak originated.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 4, 2007 9:59 AM
Comment #239974

Paul - you’re quoting Michelle Malkin as a ‘source’? Jeez, if I wanted to prove all my points, I could just put a link to the Daily Kos in there.

Posted by: Jon R at December 4, 2007 3:50 PM
Comment #240083

I saw part of this question and answer show on CNN and thought the repub candidates by and large did a good job of answering mostley dumb videos with answers that didnt answer the questions. They certaingly gave as good as they got.
Tancredo tanked in my opinion but by and large we got a good look at the different candidates and their ability to think on their feet without sounding like yahoos, a good test that should be made mandatory after letting W slip through in the 2 previous elections.

As far as complaining about CNN and bias what do you expect when the media is consolidated and getting more so year after year? Its the free market approach and you get what you pay for. The conservatives have asked for and got exactly what they asked for. Certaingly with the Am radio and Fox news the Righties cannot really talk about bias and not sound ..well biased.
Lastly anyone that would call this format a debate without laughing cannot expect to be taken serious especially when complaining about content and being set up. Wnat did you think would happen with this format. Has anyone not seen the other Q&A’s with the same format?

Posted by: j2t2 at December 5, 2007 9:39 PM
Comment #240105

First, talk radio does not pretend to be unbiased as the people who chose the questions for the You-Tube debate do. This is the way honesty works. A person argues his position after revealing what that position is.

The problem with the news culture revealed in the CNN-chosen questions is they believe, quite honestly but mistakenly, that they can be unbiased. This pretense being the foundation of their opinion of themselves they are unable to detect the difference between editorializing and informing in their own work.

I fully agree with you on consolidation. Particularly troublesome is the ownership of American media by international corporations, blurring the lines of influence over information which will bear directly on our electoral process. It is not enough that foreign influences can now give money to our candidates through lobbying firms. Now they can also affect boardroom decisions that will determine the editorial slant of our news coverage.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 6, 2007 10:00 AM
Comment #240770

I did a four-part review of the questions asked at the Democratic You Tube debate side by side with those asked of Republicans, and here were the results I tabulated.

Democrats fielded:
26 Talking Point Questions
8 Attack Questions
2 irrelevant questions

Republicans fielded:
9 Talking Points Questions
21 Attack Questions
3 irrelevant Questions

That is the extent of the bias that I found with CNN!

Posted by: JD at December 15, 2007 12:37 AM
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