Debate's Biggest Loser? Chris Wallace and Fox
While there seems to be some debate over who won the Republican debate in Ames, Iowa, there seems to be consensus on who lost: Fox News in general and Chris Wallace specifically. In the mind of many conservatives, the Fox questioners did their best MSNBC impersonations by peppering the candidates with tough yet mostly meaningless irrelevancies. Folks are asking what good are tough questions if they are meaningless? I submit they are of no use at all.
Which brings up another question: what is the point of a debate anyway? Or an interview for that matter? The point should be to shed light on who might make a good President. But that's not what motivates the media in these events. The typical debate or interview question is all about the interviewer trying to make himself or herself look good by putting the candidate in an awkward situation. The media, and many Americans, have been lulled to sleep under the ridiculous assumption that debates and interviews should be all about who can navigate the awkward moment the best. They should not.
Now let me hastily add that handling awkward situations is part of the skill set necessary in any leader. But I submit it is only a small part. Leaders, including Presidents, are normally in control of situations. This is especially true in the early days of their administration when they have a wave of support and often a somewhat compliant Congress. What we need from our questioners is more light shed on what vision the candidate has for the country and how he/she will implement that vision while they are in control.
Our economy is dead because of the policies Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi implemented while they were firmly in control. Osama Bin Laden is dead because of decisions made by Bush and Cheney while they were firmly in control -- even thought it took years for those decisions to bear fruit. The point is this: what a President will do while in control has exponentially more impact than how a President reacts to an awkward question.
Vetting this control dynamic is especially helpful during the primary process. Primary voters in a party out of power are aching for the person who best understands what is wrong with the party in power and who can best lead a turn around of the problems that party has created. They are not served by an arrogant Chris Wallace asking a question in August based on a question Wallace himself asked in May. The obsession the Fox team had with their own prior interviews was nauseating, unsettling and frankly childish.
And memo to the normally reasonable Byron York: that question about Michelle Bachmann and her husband and the Biblical passage of marital submission? Really? Why don't you ask someone about Constitutional Submission?
Of course, shedding relevant light is not the media template. To the media figure, questions that do that might seem like softball questions and they would reflect poorly on the journalist. Well fine. Presidential debates are not about the journalists' reputations. At least they shouldn't be.
Perhaps it is time to totally rethink some debate assumptions, at least from the party standpoint during the primary process. The Jurassic media is really not a necessary ingredient in this process in this day of the new media and the social media. Engaged primary voters, who are the entire ballgame at this juncture, are easily able to follow the candidates through talk radio and the internet -- including the social media.
In other words, there likely are not legions of Republican primary voter in the country who care a whit what Chris Wallace thinks. After last night, many will not be particularly interested in what Bret Baier or Byron York think either. Neither the candidates nor the voters need these people, and if they are not going to add anything to the process, they should be jettisoned.
Why not have folks like say, Mark Levin and Andrew Breitbart and Ann Coulter ask the questions? Admit it, that would be a fun night and at the end of two hours, you would have a great idea on which candidate or candidates would be Barack Obama's worst nightmare and the free enterprise system's dream come true. And isn't that the point of the primary process?
I submit that it is. It is time for some outside the box thinking. RNC, are you listening? (Wait, don't answer that).
Actually, there was a clear winner last night -- and it was the man who has run the absolute worst campaign up to this point. Newt Gingrich scored huge points when he humiliated Wallace over the "gotcha" questions. Whether or not Gingrich was just frustrated or whether he was prescient enough to know and understand that our misguided media own much of the blame for the mass elections of incompetents is unclear.
The fact remains that he nailed an absolute hot button with frustrated voters when he shamed Wallace. And Herman Cain also scored when he was incredulous that any thinking adult actually wondered if Cain were serious about an alligator and moat comment weeks earlier and Mitt Romney scored when he refused to accept a questioner's premise and stated he would "not eat President Obama's dogfood."
The lesson is clear. The mainstream media -- and Fox is getting more and more mainstream every day -- is not the friend of the Republican primary voter. They add nothing to the process. Any candidate who will show his or her mettle by calling them out for their ridiculous practices will score big. As it should be.