I managed to
catch only snippets of the previous Republican debates until this
past Wednesday. Usually, the highlights from YouTube provided better
insight than sitting through the actual live feed. Now I know why.
Here's a snapshot of the first six questions, with some analysis.
Let's see if we can pick out the missing subtext to each question,
and the overall theme of the debate. I've called out the media's
deliberate use of various
tactics before, but Wednesday night's showing is one for the
Schmaltzy Lead in rather than a question.
Will you make America a "sanctuary city" country?
Posed To: Rudy
and Mitt (~2 minutes each)
and Mitt bloody each other up. Mitt gets the best of Rudy, with
the audience actually booing Benito down at the end. "Are you suggesting
Mr. Mayor...if you hear someone with a funny accent, you as a homeowner
should go out there and ask to see their papers?" Classic.
Will you pledge to veto amnesty for Illegal Aliens?
Posed To: Fred
Thompson (90 sec), Rudy (30 sec), John McCain (90 sec), Tom Tancredo
is awful, mumbling a series of wandering, droopy-dog non-sequiturs.
Takes pot shots at Rudy and Mitt, and flubs the one-liner. Rudy
defends his record as a socialist mayor. McCain tries to imitate
a "voice of wisdom," ends with compassionate conservative. Tancredo
refers to himself in the third person several times. Yikes.
With immigration reform failing, will I have a job?
Posed To: Tancredo
(90 sec), Hunter (90 sec)
makes a decent case against immigration and guest workers, even
dancing around the economic problems of wage and price. Hunter goes
on about San Diego border fence, the results, and pledges to build
the Southern Superfence across our entire Mexican border.
Lower college tuition rates military families or illegals?
Posed To: Huckabee
(90 sec), Romney (90 sec)
reveals his socialist props in preacher smooth intonation. Content
is awful, but the delivery is smooth. This reminds me of Martin
Sheen as President Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone ("The missiles
are flying. Hallelujah, Hallelujah!"). He is dangerous.
a good swipe at Big Mike, and pulls a Ronald Reagan "Mike, that's
not your money." Mike gets his hackles up after being poked in the
chest. It will be interesting to see him react in future debates;
his rising star is sure to draw more barbs from Mitt and Rudy, until
they figure out whose running mate he's going to be.
Do you believe in a conspiracy to make a new union?
Posed To: Ron
Paul (90 sec)
question itself is designed to make Ron look like a conspiracy theorist
lunatic. Handpicked by the CNN Commissars, and posed to the sole
libertarian-republican on stage, they are clearly looking to create
the Dean Scream moment. Dr. Paul answers the question with poise,
from an informed point of view, and manages to work in a few points
about illegal immigration tied to a funded superhighway without
looking like a card-carrying member of the Chemtrails
At this point,
Ron Paul supporters realize it's going to be a long night. The good
Doctor alone has been excluded from answering a question on illegal
immigration. If you believe the "debates" are on the up and up,
this is especially puzzling. Dr. Paul is a border state congressman
with a highly informed opinion; in fact he is stridently against
illegal immigration, and is the only candidate from either party
suggesting that birth-right
citizenship be ended (Sorry Tancredo
fans). Talk about missing a golden opportunity to liven up the
debate. This however, reveals the true purpose of the "debates"
as a free ad forum for the anointed candidates. Understood in this
light, things make more sense.
Here is a guess
at CNN's unspoken editorial rules for the debate, based on the questions
posed, and the amount of time
given to each candidate:
1) Give plenty
of face time to the poll leaders, Mitt and Rudy. Presidential interviewing
favors are curried in advance, viewership is maximized, and the
commercial interests backing the "safe" candidates remain loyal
CNN advertisers. If the leaders stumble, so much the better, it
makes for great TV.
2) Give the
second tier candidates, Thompson, McCain and Huckabee, enough time
to make a break for the front, or fall further back in their campaign.
Wednesday's debate was a live simultaneous viewing of Huckabee ascendant
and the McCain implosion.
3) Mostly ignore
the laggards, Tancredo and Hunter, giving them just enough time
to remind us they're still on stage, but no real chance to score
points. They're dead men walking, so why bother now. If they slip
into a Veep slot on a Republican ticket it'll be with one of the
anointed leaders, so who cares.
marginalize that nut-job, Ron Paul. Give him questions designed
to be no-win. Answer well, and score few points with a national
viewership who hasn't seen you before. Flub it up, and we've got
our soundbite to make sure you don't win. He doesn't fit neatly
into the Republican mold. His supporters aren't easily classified
as Soccer Moms, Angry White Men, or Disenfranchised Minorities.
Most unforgivably, he says crazy things like bring the troops home,
abolish the IRS, and de-regulate just about everything. In short,
he is a threat to the cozy status quo enjoyed by the ABCNNMSNBCBS
media and their government leash holders. The rest of the debate
was more of the same. The usual bias by position tactic was employed.
Unlike the reverse pyramid style of newsprint, long-format TV viewing
tends to accentuate content in a bathtub
curve. Content at the start is absorbed by those who tune in,
then (wisely) tune out, and content at the end is recalled by those
with the stomach to watch the entire 2-hour politico-fest. In this
case Mitt and Rudy got a softball Red Sox question to end the debate,
just after Dr. Paul's last question of the night. Ready for the
real clincher to the "marginalize Paul" theory above? Here's the
transcript of the question (emphasis mine):
Mark : "Mark
Strous, Davenport, Iowa. This question is for Ron Paul. Mr. Paul,
I think we both know that the Republican Party is never going to
give you the nomination. But, I'm hoping that you're crazy like
a fox like that, and you're using this exposure to propel yourself
into an independent run. My question is for Ron Paul. Mr. Paul,
are you going to let America down by not running as an independent?
Mr. Paul, are you going to run as an independent?
probably meant well, and seems to be a Ron Paul supporter. The position
of his question however, is intended to leave in the mind of the
undecided Republican primary-goer, the audience watching the debate,
that Ron Paul is unelectable. So, to summarize the bias by position
tactic as used in the debates, Ron Paul is a conspiracy theorist
kook is the subtext of the 6th question, and Ron Paul is an unelectable
maverick is the second to last question. Nice editorial bias, CNN.
Thanks a lot.