There is nothing more frightening to the powerful than losing power. The reason so many politicians stay in elected office despite the ease at which they can make millions of dollars in the private sector is because they do not want to give up that power. The mainstream media, for a generation, had the power to control the narrative (and still do for the most part), especially in politics. Republicans have always made bashing the media a mainstay, but rarely does it every translate into results.
That is changing somewhat, particularly with the GOP primary debates and this has some members of the mainstream media in a full on pearl clutching, flop sweat, fainting couch panic. CNBC hosted the last GOP debate and for all intents and purposes, it was a train wreck. The moderators, Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood were far more interested in arguing with candidates and asking questions designed to get candidates to attack each other as opposed to debating policies.
Following this mess, Republicans campaigns sought to take a larger role in debate negotiations, including making sure partisan hacks masquerading as “objective journalists” are not allowed to control the debate in its entirety. This is a completely reasonable demand for candidates to make. The purpose of a debate is for candidates to essentially argue with each other about policies and ideas so that voters can make a more informed choice over who to select as their candidate. Debate moderators are there to facilitate these discussions and make sure participants are abiding by the established rules.
Somehow, media elites have decided that debates are about them and instead of creating an environment where issues can be debated among the participants feel as though it is their role to “challenge” and “be tough” on the candidates. Look at this question from John Harwood to Marco Rubio:
The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale.
Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?
How in the world is that a valid debate question? That is a question better suited for a press conference or if [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] was a guest on a Sunday talk show. Compare that, to the first two debate questions in 1960 between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon:
To Kennedy: Senator, the Vice President in his campaign has said that you were naive and at times immature. He has raised the question of leadership. On this issue, why do you think people should vote for you rather than the Vice President?
To Nixon: Mr. Vice President, your campaign stresses the value of your eight year experience, and the question arises as to whether that experience was as an observer or as a participant or as an initiator of policy-making. Would you tell us please specifically what major proposals you have made in the last eight years that have been adopted by the Administration?
Notice the difference? Stark.
So the candidates decided to take some control of the situation. The result? Mainstream media members acting as though the republic was going to be turned on its head. Here are some examples:
If media outlets give candidates veto power over moderators then our democracy is truly broken. Time for us all to take a stand.
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) October 31, 2015
Imagine what any candidate whining about the debates would do to freedom of speech if they were elected president.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) November 2, 2015
admit you play COD. i have no problem with people criticizing cnbc but debates need to test candidates more not less https://t.co/qyZ4Xmg5ma — Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) November 2, 2015
Want to play #GOPDivas? “The biggest surprise about the GOP debate demands is that _______ [candidate] wants ______ [demand].” — Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) November 2, 2015
Matthew, Olivia, Chris and Ron? This is not about you. This is not about the media. This is not about press freedom or freedom of speech.
Nobody cares about your fake tears over the condition of our republic while you sit around pooh-poohing the IRS attempts to silence conservative groups without any repercussions for their actions. Nobody cares about your phony outrage over GOP debate demands when you didn’t demand the resignation of people in positions of government power who signed off on subpoenas for Associated Press phone records and who labeled fellow journalist James Rosen a “criminal co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act of 1917 as a means of getting access to his personal email and phone records.
Those are actual threats to a free press and to free speech.
Blubbering about GOP candidate debate demands only makes you look petty because it is nothing more than the acknowledgement you no longer have the power you once did and the country is actually better for it.