Seeing Red at the Reagan Library
Fortunately, I had my shoes off last night. So I couldn't throw them at the television when NBC's insufferable Brian Williams and Politico's John Harris came on. They are a perfect illustration of what Roger Mudd said decades ago: We in the media can't tell you what to think, but we can tell you what to think about. Last night, these two arrogant liberals sneered their way through the Republican Candidates Debate at the Reagan Library.
I'm not endorsing Newt Gingrich by any means, but I cheered when the former Speaker smacked back at these smirkmeisters. Question for these so-called moderators: Have you ever voted for a Republican presidential candidate in your lives?
The presidential debates of today are in reality a media mix of the old Gong Show and the Goon Show from England. They were invented in 1960 by the late CBS News producer, Don Hewitt. He knew what he was doing. He claimed it was to honor the hundredth anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglass Debates of 1858.
The Lincoln-Douglass Debates were classics of political oratory and philosophy. They may still be read with profit today in college classes. The format then allowed the candidates to speak and to challenge each other. There were no puffed-up journalists allowed on the platform.
Don Hewitt, of course, was a liberal. He knew the format he was choosing was perfect to showcase glib young liberals like Sen. John F. Kennedy. TV was a new medium then. Kennedy's tan and his relaxed, confident manner came across wonderfully on the tube. Vice President Richard Nixon's sallow complexion (he had just gotten out of the hospital), his famous five o'clock shadow, and his longer, more detailed answers did not serve him well on the visual medium of television.
No wonder those who listened to the debates on radio often scored Nixon the winner on substance. But viewers were dazzled by Kennedy's movie star good looks and snappy comebacks.
Of course, Wednesday night's red stage performance at the Reagan Library could not begin to plumb the depths of John King of CNN. When the ponderous King moderated an earlier GOP debate, he enlightened the world by getting to the heart of such burning issues as "deep dish or thin crust?" "Leno or Letterman?"
I used to tell my college students there was no such thing as a stupid question. I didn't want them to hold back or feel embarrassed. But I had not yet seen CNN's John King and the stupidest questions ever posed to men and women who might be leaders of the Free World.
NBC's debate was held on a red stage. Wasn't it annoying, too? Well, it's intended to be. Red is an irritating color. That may be why the networks gave it to us in 2000.
In the Reagan Era, Republicans were blue, Democrats were red. Blue is calm. Blue projects confidence. When Ronald Reagan romped to his back-to-back landslides, the network maps turned "Reagan blue." And Dan Rather turned green.
Many attribute the red state/blue state divide, and the switching of the party colors, to the late Tim Russert. Russert, it is true, was a liberal. But he made a great reputation by the simple tactic of asking tough questions of Republicans -- and Democrats. He was an honest man. And, yes, he did imprint the red-for-Republicans, blue-for-Democrats on the nation with the long count from Florida in 2000. The network suits, however, took it and ran with it for a decade.
It doesn't have to stay that way. Blue is the color of conservatives the world over. Look to Canada, Britain, and Australia. (Although those Down Under Aussies confuse matters by calling themselves Liberal! And in Germany the conservatives are black, not blue. But after her recent election losses, Frau Merkel is feeling rather black and blue.)
Red is the color of the Left. Go to the musical Les Miz. Watch as those French prisoners of starvation rush to the barricades and wave their red flag of revolution. Britain's Labour Party, Canada's Liberals, the Socialists in France -- all red.
What would we lose by switching back? OK. Red State is a wonderful conservative website. Can't we persuade the redoubtable Mr. Erick Erickson to call it Red, White, and Blue State? It's OK if the Left calls us Blue Meanies. We've been called worse. By Jimmy Hoffa. If he'll consent to go blue, we can tell Red State's Erickson he's a true blue hero.