The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

This Is The Part Where I Point And Laugh At Alan Schroeder

Posted on | April 3, 2011 | 3 Comments

by Smitty

At the risible SOL/PuffHo, Alan Schroeder has published “Why Republicans Should Not Sponsor Republican Debates“. Two ‘graphs in, I realized this would have to be a long-form fisk. Emphasis mine throughout.

Schroeder Smitty
According to an internal e-mail intercepted by Politico, the Republican National Committee is hoping to sponsor its own series of primary debates during the upcoming 2012 presidential campaign. The principal motive appears to be financial: by requiring participants to attend party fund-raisers in conjunction with each debate, the cash-strapped RNC sees a way to monetize its candidates’ efforts. The secondary motive is control: by staging the programs themselves, the party gets to determine the number of debates, their length and format, the participants, moderators, and all other pertinent details. Somewhat valid point here. However, bear in mind that the Tea Parties are going to be going after the GOP Ruling Class with pliers and a blowtorch. The book is that the GOP sucks less than the Democrats, hardly a ringing endorsement. If GOP debates devolve into an exercise in crapflooding, a reasonable concern, then count on the New Media to undertake the job that the School of Journalism at Northeastern University failed in Quisling fashion in 2008.
On both counts, this is a supremely bad idea. For starters, debates represent one of the few aspects of modern presidential campaigns free from the taint of money. Linking these events with fund-raising undermines the traditional role of debates as civics lessons, designed with the intent of helping voters make informed choices. Political campaigns are already too financially oriented; let’s keep our presidential debates about ideas, not cash. Really? Does anyone seriously think there was an ‘civics’ value in the 2008 ‘debates’? Please, help me understand, and refute the suspicion that they were pure theater, with bi-partisan effort to make a substandard candidate look polished, and prep the backdrop candidate for offering a concession speech. Those debates were an overture to the study in suck that has been this entire administration.
The prospect of RNC-sponsored debates is troubling in another way. Successful debate sponsors must bring two qualities to the table: independence and clout. The party may have clout with its candidates, but its utter lack of independence poses major problems. Letting Republican apparatchiks produce their own debates reeks of self-serving state-run television at its worst. The goal will not be to create superior debates for viewers, but rather to protect the candidates and the party from being cast in an unfavorable light. Independence? Can you point to a single hard question posed the Democratic nominee? Which in the series of drool bucket moderators actually did something to inform the American public about the candidate?
State run television? That would imply that taxpayers are picking up the tab. Can you substantiate that notion at all, Schroeder? If not, then please retract that, post haste.
Protect the candidates? Wasn’t that the precedent established in 2008 by the Left? As noted above, the New Media, and blog posts in the vein of this one, are going to ensure that the 2008 debacle does not recur.
Sponsorship is always a tricky issue in campaign debates, because organizing any such high-profile contest is inevitably fraught with peril. As a rule, candidates do not like to debate, which means their advisors go to ridiculous lengths to ensure ground rules that minimize risk. A debate sponsor must be strong enough to push back against these attempts to micromanage. With the RNC as sponsor, the negotiations would be more collaborative in nature than adversarial. Probably depends upon what you mean by ‘debate’. If it’s some contrived Lefty propaganda ambush, yeah, you may get declined. Name some names of candidates, and fair, reasonable terms, and see who balks. Because I’ll bet a can of soda the balker is you, Schroeder.
Since Kennedy and Nixon first went before the cameras in 1960, American presidential debates have taken place under several types of sponsorship arrangements. For general election match-ups, the independent Commission on Presidential Debates has led the charge since 1988. Over time the Commission has strengthened its position vis-à-vis the campaigns, minimizing the problematic “debate over debates” that rears its ugly head each election cycle. During the primary campaign season, debates are typically sponsored by media outlets, sometimes in partnership with other news organizations or political, academic, or civic organizations. One of the problems faced in contemporary American politics is that most existing institutions are viewed as corrupt by Conservatives. Journalism in general, for starters. The Citizens United case, the war on the Koch brothers, the media silence on the New Black Panthers case, the series of train wrecks that were the 2008 debates, have left the independent Commission on Presidential Debates guilty until proven innocent. Convince me that this is not Yet Another Pack of Tools hell-bent on seeing four more unaffordable years of BHO. I’m waiting.
Each arrangement offers its advantages and disadvantages. Media outlets usually have enough power to negotiate as equals with the candidates, but network-sponsored debates too often become about showcasing in-house talent instead of highlighting the candidates. When news organizations sponsor debates, the aim is to generate sound bites, not sustain an enlightened, long-form political discussion. Remember the obnoxious ABC News debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008, the one in which the audience booed the moderators for fixating on irrelevant personal questions? Well, no. Is that the one where the now-President gave the now-Secretary of State the finger? Can we expect the candidates to stand at attention, and, at the command, “Present document!” show a bir–no: not going there.
Yet party sponsorship is an even worse idea. In an RNC-sponsored debate, who would ask the questions: that hard-hitting journalist Sean Hannity? Master interrogator Glenn Beck? Ann Coulter? Joe the Plumber? What would the topics be? Safe Republican talking points, or controversial but important issues? How much spontaneity could possibly exist when the people producing the debate are also in the business of promoting the participants? Actually, Wurzelbach asked the single most germane question of the 2008 election cycle. Possibly he’s a better moderator than you think. Ann Coulter? Now you’re talking. Beck? Well, if he can keep the sprinkler system under control, he’s a possibility. Schroeder, you may not be quite the knob you initially appear. All three of the personalities named are head and shoulders above the bozos we had to endure in 2008, and who helped get us into our current state of rolling crisis. Which is not to argue that a McCain Administration would have been significantly better.
In a field of contenders that has yet to come into focus, as with the 2012 Republicans, the public relies on debates to differentiate among candidates. Voters deserve to see these would-be presidents in a legitimately competitive setting, defending their positions, responding when challenged, distinguishing themselves from their rivals. What voters don’t need is a debate sponsor with a direct stake in the outcome of the race. No, the public does not rely on debates, except as theater. Too controlled, insufficiently substantive.
‘Direct stake’? Are you attempting to float the steamer that journalism retains any objectivity, and isn’t almost completely biased Left? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Thank St. Albert of Gore for his little Internet gadget, or we’d have no hope whatsoever.


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