Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How CNN embarrassed itself last night

I didn't see much of the debate last night but Jim Geraghty in his e-mailed newsletter summarizes the problem with what CNN imagines are the proper questions to ask Republican candidates.
Jen Rubin noticed that, one hour into the debate, there were no questions on national security. We went one hour and 45 minutes before any serious question on foreign policy.

Before then, CNN asked about abortion on two questions, including the particularly morally thorny circumstances of rape and incest, gays in the military, gay marriage, and the separation of church and state. Oh, and whether Herman Cain prefers deep-dish pizza or thin crust.

My instinct is to mock the Democrats when they refuse to appear on debates hosted by the Fox News Channel, but debacles such as last night make the concept of a GOP reciprocal strategy hard to dispute. The social issues listed above are probably big topics in the newsrooms of CNN, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and the local television affiliate that sponsored last night's debate, or more specifically, to non-conservative journalists, these social issues are the ones that make Republicans weird. So these are the sorts of questions that these reporters want to know about, even though every poll of every state of every demographic indicates that voters are concerned about jobs, jobs, jobs. You could have done a half hour on creating jobs, a half hour on entitlement reform, a half hour on what should be done post-Obamacare, and a half hour on balancing the budget. There really is enough ground to cover there.

And just think, CNN is supposed to be better than MSNBC. If large swaths of debate time is going to be consumed by issues that the media is more interested in, or idiotic frivolities such as which reality shows they prefer, perhaps Republican candidates will be justified in rethinking participation in debates on some networks.
Geraghty is exactly right. These are the issues that the media think will make the public recoil in horror from voting for a Republican candidate. And perhaps they're right. But they are also issues that are relatively unimportant to the voting public right now. The economy is deteriorating from being awful to being worse than awful. We have troops involved in three locations and no one is clearly optimistic about the outcomes in any of those three. The Arab Spring is bidding to become the Radical Islamic Summer. The economy is the issue that makes Obama look bad, so better to pivot and ask about abortion and gays, issues that the president has much less impact on than the prominence of those issues in presidential elections would lead us to believe. And asking these "this or that" questions is just silly and tells us nothing about any of the candidates. Who cares if Michelle Bachmann can't choose between Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley? Does CNN imagine that anyone would use the answers to these questions to make their choice for president? Poor CNN. They want to seem a bit hip and interesting and they just can't make it.