Friday, October 30, 2015

The Role of a Moderator In a Debate


So the RNC announced it has "suspended" its partnership with NBC. Funny, I wasn't aware that they had a partnership with anybody other than AM radio and a few Fox News' hosts. The reason for the suspension, according to a letter drafted by Reince Priebus, was to "ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay out their vision for America's future." In other words, the GOP wants to make sure their candidates have a safe forum to peddle their snake oil to the country without being challenged by those pesky facts that moderators tend to bring out.

Look, I'll admit it. The CNBC debate was a debacle. Fortunately, I didn't watch it. I was too busy watching another debacle that night: the Mets getting pummeled by the Royals. But from the reports I've seen, it wasn't John Harwood's finest moment. The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway wrote that Harwood "has no business moderating a GOP presidential debate." The operative word here being GOP. Apparently, Harwood can moderate all the Democratic debates he wants, but dibs off the Republicans.

This sort of us against them meme has deep roots within the Republican Party going all the way back to Barry Goldwater. They've never had any use for anyone outside their own private Idaho confronting them on their bullshit. Whether it's Candy Crowley fact checking Mitt Romney over the Benghazi attack in the 2012 presidential debate or Harwood challenging Donald Trump and Marco Rubio on their respective tax plans, the simple truth is that Republicans - particularly conservative Republicans - can't stand it when their "facts" are rebutted. They even had harsh words for how they were treated in the Fox News debate.

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but I thought moderators were, first and foremost, journalists and, as such, they had a moral and ethical responsibility to make sure that questions asked of a candidate were answered truthfully by that candidate and not ignored and deflected. It's a debate, not an infomercial. You're running for president, not top Ginsu knife salesman.

Perish the thought that a moderator might interrupt a candidate in mid fib and push back. Well, Heavens to Betsy, we can't have any of that. That would take too long and, besides, it would completely undo all the preparation that went into the false narrative of that candidate. Politicians, you see, have a vested interest in making people believe that two plus two equals five. If I'm not mistaken, that's the thrust of the Rubio tax plan. Slash taxes, magically grow the economy, all without adding a penny to the deficit. Frankly, I'll take the Ginsu knife. At least I can do something with it that's useful. About all I can do with Rubio's tax plan is line the bottom of my bird cage. And I don't even own a bird.

Seriously, journalists are supposed to be the gate keepers when it comes to the truth. They aren't there just to go along for the ride. Whether they take the role of moderator or not, when a false statement is made, it is their job to expose it. Failure to do so is a dereliction of duty.  It's time the lame-stream media they did its job instead of buckling under to pressure.

As far as I'm concerned, Reince Priebus and the RNC can take their ball and go home if they want. If they can't handle a few tough questions during their primary debates, just wait till they get to the general election debates. Hillary will clean their clock and laugh all the way to the finish line.

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