The 2016 GOP Debate Debacle
by Michelle Malkin
When the dust settles on this wild and wacky GOP primary season, there will be at least one clear Biggest Loser: the Republican National Committee.
After 2012, when liberal journalists routinely hijacked the party’s 20 televised debates while cashing in on ratings and advertising revenue, the RNC resolved to change narrative-surrendering business as usual.
There would be no more cable TV anchors belligerently taking President Obama’s side while arguing with the GOP nominee (as Candy Crowley infamously did with Mitt Romney over Benghazi).
There would be no more former Democratic operatives-turned journalists injecting their left-wing social agenda into GOP primary forums (as Clinton adviser-turned-ABC newsman George Stephanopoulous did at the January 2012 Republican debate in New Hampshire when he pushed the Democrats’ War on Women propaganda by pressing Republicans on a nonsense contraceptive ban.)
And there would be real balance in the selection of moderators, through partnerships “with conservative media to make sure the concerns of grassroots Republicans are addressed.”
RNC chairman Reince Priebus declared in 2014 after the committee adopted measures to reassert control over the process: “The liberal media doesn’t deserve to be in the driver’s seat.”
How’s that working out? It’s the same old, same old. Last week’s debate hosted by CNN was commandeered by a Telemundo celebrity journalist Maria Celeste Arraras, known as “the Katie Couric of Spanish TV,” who soaked up nearly half the show representing “the Latino community” on issues such as Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise to the RNC. She did the same during a Democratic presidential debate in 2004, when she argued with candidates about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. The lone conservative token questioner, Salem radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, received a fraction of the time. The infamous “screaming lady” in the audience earned far more buzz.
Hewitt had made an earlier appearance in the second debate hosted by CNN last September. But again, he was relegated to the margins. As even the left-wing New York Times pointed out, the network “came to the second Republican primary debate looking for a fight” along with an agenda of setting up “catfights” between Donald Trump and the rest of the candidates.
Conservative blogger Scott Johnson of Power Line noted that instead of giving GOP voters “a chance to assess the strengths of the candidates and to pick the strongest candidate to achieve their objective…(CNN moderator) Jake Tapper had other ideas in mind. His consignment of Hugh Hewitt to the witness protection program is representative of his pursuit of other ideas.”
The third debate hosted by CNBC in Boulder was deemed a complete disaster by observers across the political spectrum. Instead of focusing on economics, as the network and RNC promised they would, the “moderators” made themselves the center of attention with trivial and condescending questions designed to instigate circus conflict between personalities instead of enlightening viewers about actual policy differences between candidates.
Again, this shouldn’t have been a surprise to the RNC. CNBC chief clown John Harwood had a long public record running interference for Hillary Clinton, denigrating conservative critics of Obamacare, and shrugging at convicted infant murderer and abortionist Kermit Gosnell.
As for giving actual conservatives a central chance to address the candidates directly, the RNC yielded to Google during the seventh debate in Iowa in January. We didn’t hear from grassroots voters who had their health insurance canceled because of Obamacare or business owners negatively affected by Dodd-Frank or victims of illegal alien crime who oppose amnesty.
Instead, the privileged questioners included a YouTube fashionista who had crossed the border illegally from Mexico as a child and a Muslim activist who spread debunked, CAIR-style propaganda about “Islamophobia” hate crimes in America.
The ninth debate hosted by CBS in South Carolina was moderated by John Dickerson, a Beltway liberal elite who called on President Obama to “Go for the Throat!” and “declare war on the Republican Party,” and to “pulverize” his political enemies over gun control, climate change and immigration. The event was remarkable not so much for any overt political bias as it was for a complete lack of control over both the candidates and the audience.
And, of course, no one remembers anything about the first debate other than the feud between Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump.
The obvious, effective solution is to wrest control from mainstream media networks and hold debates sponsored by conservative media outlets with conservative journalists and broadcast/simulcast on neutral ground (hello, C-SPAN!). The RNC had one such debate in the works, but abandoned the idea last month.
For the candidates, continuing with these rigged charades is an exercise in futility and masochism. For the RNC, it’s suicide. By its passivity and complicity, the current batch of GOP enablers have proved that they don’t deserve to be in the driver’s seat.