With Jhanley and I both writing pieces about the GOP debates, I found a couple other links of interest:

1) Jonathan Last starts off with a quiz asking if you can tell Fox debate questions from CNBC ones. Both featured some tough questions, but Fox’s were couched in terms to give candidates an opportunity to respond, while CNBC’s were framed… differently:

So #1 was Megyn Kelly asking Ben Carson a hard question about whether he’s ready to be president based on his own statements. That’s pretty tough. Then look at #8, where Becky Quick wanted to ask Carson about homosexuality, but couldn’t figure out how to do it except by making his involvement with Costco about homosexuality because some “marketing study” said that Costco is “the number one gay-friendly brand in America.”

What does that phrase even mean? That gay people like to buy things from Costco? That gay people like to work for Costco? That Costco courts gay consumers and/or employees? The answer, of course, is that this word salad doesn’t mean anything. It’s a meaningless pretext for a blunt, open-ended question that assumes, as a baseline, that Ben Carson hates gay people.

Or take #2 where the moderator in question is John Harwood and he references unnamed “economic advisors” who said that Trump’s economic plan has “as much chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms around.” Like Quick, Harwood doesn’t have a specific, pointed question. He has anonymous straw men standing in the middle of a non-question holding a sign that says “Repblican Is Stoopid.”

2) David Harsanyi is sensitive to Republican concerns:

It was amusing watching journalists acting like this entire kerfuffle was all about the inability of Republicans to answer “tough questions” rather than decades of institutional favoritism. Or even more preposterously, that demanding to be treated with the same tenderness as Democrats meant that Republicans were undermining free speech in some way. A rallying cry from journalists could be heard across the Twitterverse, demanding someone, somewhere stand up and fight. If only these sentinels of principled reporting felt the same way every time some hackneyed hit piece rolled off the presses at The New York Times.

Demanding more favorable treatment is not tantamount to attacking the First Amendment. A candidate has no obligation to stand in front of moderators who misrepresent their position and answer useless but antagonistic questions. Not to mention, this is a primary, not a general election. Demands are nothing new. In 2007, Democrats boycotted a Fox News debate because they wanted to avoid an outlet that might pose challenging questions.

But ultimately says come on:

For starters, the slew of limitations proposed in the letter reportedly drafted by GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg have absolutely nothing to do with the bias of mainstream media moderators and everything to do with attempts to transform GOP debates into infomercials.

Why can’t a network film candidates looking at their notes? And why can’t they show shots of the audience? What does leaving the mic open have to do with dumb questions? Why does the GOP care if there are candidate-to-candidate questions asked during a candidates’ debate? None of these restrictions help with the fundamental problem of Harwood-style gotcha advocacy posing as journalism. A raucous argument with genuine questions and disagreements is somewhat useful and watchable (the first Fox debate featured all of these things).

Category: Newsroom

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