There really is no excuse for the Republicans refusing to appear at the CNN/Youtube debate, and Patrick Ruffini is right that the GOP is making a huge tactical mistake if they skip it. It is not even remotely surprising that Hugh Hewitt, man of the people, is spearheading the opposition. Hugh has an authoritarian streak about him, and is convinced the media is out to get him and the Republican party.
They really do believe the media is out to get them- never mind that the media, so slavish to the concept of “balance,” often lends credibility to all manner of absurd statements. Hell, here is an example from today in the NY Times:
VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
Let’s not focus on what was said (a topic for another post), but that it was written in part by Kenneth Pollack, who is, as we speak being billed on CNN as a “war critic.” Kenneth Pollack wrote “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.” Much more from Glenn on this.
So cowed and afraid of being charged as biased, the media often bends over backwards to accommodate people who generally should be ridiculed or ignored. And so it would be with the CNN/Youtube debate. I am completely convinced that CNN would go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that most of the crazy was removed from the questions, lest they be accused of being liberal or out to get Republicans.
On the other hand, if you were to take Captain Ed’s idea and run with it, there would be no one there to sort out the crazy. The American public would actually get to see what concerns the Republican base. Viewers would be subjected to several hours of discussion about intelligent design, Terri Schiavo, gay marriage, the fear of brown people pouring across the border, reasons to invade Iran, etc.
Which do you think will do the Republican candidates more damage- having to seriously answer questions about how they don’t believe in evolution and questions like that and demonstrating to the rest of America what the Republican base REALLY is, or whatever sane and boring and sanitized questions Anderson Cooper picks out of the pool of questions?
Smart Democrats would be encouraging Republicans to skip the debate and to stage their own controlled event. The results would be devastating to the GOP.
*** Update ***\
Re-reading this, I realize I may not have been very clear. My point is this:
Hugh and others have so convinced themselves the media is out to get them, that they think CNN would pick only questions that would make them look bad. In all actuality, the media is so scared and supine that they would go out of their way to weed out the crazy questions (which would be the majority), in order to appear balanced.
On the other hand, if the blogosphere or the right-wing chose the questions, there would be no one there to weed out the questions that Hugh and company think are “good,” but the rest of the country think make the GOP look insane.