CNBC: Media Matter Less

This was a great week for those of us who consider the corporate media to be underinformed, partisan, and overly impressed with their own power to shape political affairs. This week CNBC’s wretched conduct of the Republican debate hurt the pocketbook of their parent company, Comcast, and gave the entire media a long-deserved black eye while upping the audience’s regard for the intended victims. If Watergate was the high water mark of the public esteem of journalists, the debate was its Waterloo.

Like me, you have to admit that you never expected to hear Carl Bernstein admit the right was correct about the partisan bias of the mainstream press. But that is exactly what happened as a result of the CNBC debacle of a GOP debate:

Journalist and author Carl Bernstein slammed CNBC as “really reprehensible,” and argued Republicans are “right about the mainstream media” on Wednesday’s “CNN Tonight.”

Bernstein said, “More than anything, MSNBC was -- I’m sorry, CNBC was really reprehensible, but we got a real look at the Republican Party, for the first time, and their anti-government message is really picking up steam, and the Democrats got to pay attention to it. And they’re right about the mainstream media. We in the mainstream media need to read the right-wing press more, looking online, I look at it. Because it is a very different universe than we talk about, and there are a lot of people out there that adhere to it.”

My Facebook friend Harry Stein described the event:

I've been thinking (way too much) about John Harwood. Have we ever seen a more perfect embodiment of the indestructibly self important elitist journalist? Watching him in action last night, repeatedly using his purported questions to parade his contempt for conservatives and all we believe, he was not just quietly smug, as per usual, but insufferably so; and repeatedly revealed himself as not merely clueless, in that familiar leftist-provincial way, but continually insisted on aggressively proving the point. Here was a man who was either wholly unaware he was revealing himself as a partisan hack to millions who'd never seen him before -- or, more likely, simply didn't care. For of course his real audience was far smaller, those equally unquestioning and self aware who see the world precisely as he does; fellow progressive journalists and other dinner party confreres, joined in the heady business of Being Important Together.

CNBC is not alone in its insularity. Take the supremely overrated Charlie Rose, who was taken apart on air after the debate by Marco Rubio. Rubio said Clinton was caught out lying about Benghazi. In his always well-modulated and serious sounding tone and mien, Rose appeared taken aback at the thought someone would accuse her of lying, and seemed genuinely surprised to learn what we all had a week earlier. Contemporaneously with her spreading the lie (even over the dead bodies of the slain) that the slaughter was caused by an obscure, little-seen video, she told her daughter, friends, and the Egyptian prime minister that this was an act of terrorism, not a spontaneous reaction to a provocation. Rose seemed not to have caught that, although he’s well compensated to pay attention to such things and surely has a staff that can help him if he misses the mark,

And then there was Chuck Todd, moderator of the once prestigious “Meet the Press”, who couldn’t grasp Ted Cruz’ reference to the earlier Democratic debate as  “a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.” Chuck tweeted “Menshevik was new to me, Are they socialists who speak Yiddish?”

And so, this week surely marks the end of the media-as-savants fable -- they are dumber by far than the rest of us.

The RNC (Republican National Committee) came in for deserved criticism for agreeing to this debate. After the Candy Crowley fiasco, you’d have thought they would have learned their lesson, but, no, they appeared somnolent -- perfectly happy to throw the candidates to the ravaging hounds. The chair, Reince Priebus, was the focus of their ire. As Andrew C. McCarthy tweeted: 

“@AndrewCMcCarthy @reince announces CodePink to moderate next GOP debate. We wanted MediaMatters, but they're busy that night ...”

The hounds have every reason -- at least they thought -- to treat the debate as a “cage match”. Apart from feeding the moderators’ insatiable self-regard, being savage drives up ratings and increases their networks’ ad revenue. This time, the outcome was not to their liking.

The RNC came under fire as well from Ted Cruz, who attacked the RNC for its fecklessness. Surely donors to the RNC burned up the wires with complaints. As a result, the RNC announced CNBC will not be allowed to moderate another debate, and the Committee was evaluating the other media “after this crap sandwich”. Priebus also suspended its partnership with NBC which had been scheduled for February

Don Surber published in full the kiss-off letter, which was fine as far as it went, but he offered his own which I agree was not only simpler but better

Dear NBC:

CNBC's debate on Wednesday was the last straw. You are dead to me and the Republican candidates. Forget February, and next fall, too.


Conservatives are tired of being treated like second-class citizens in their own country.

I would also not do "Meet The Press."

There is a conceit in the press that they need "us" more than we need them.

We shall see. 

Surber thinks the refusal to allow further debates on NBC or CNBC will cost the network and its owner, Comcast, millions. I think he’s right. Let Chuck interview the Kardashians every Sunday. Turn his show into a male version of the floundering dumb Medusas ("The View").

As for what format the next debate takes, I have a modest proposal. Pick a couple of policy questions for all the candidates to discuss with only a timekeeper -- no moderator. Stream it live on the internet and give any network authorization to run it at the same time. They need us more than we need them.

Anyway, being the female Walter Mitty type that I am, I dreamt I was the moderator asking Hillary some questions.

I’d use these from Marc Posner, another Facebook friend, as starters:

1. Hillary, you have had upwards of 5 different explanations regarding your private, unsecured email servers. These were outlined in the New York Times. Given that each explanation pretty much contradicted the previous one, which explanation would you say is the Truth, at this point?

2. Hillary, You and Obama claim you don't want to take guns away from Americans. Yet you both express admiration for the gun laws of Australia and Britain, each of which required widespread confiscation, and suggest that we need to consider them for America. How is that not expressing support for confiscation?

3. Hillary, every nation that experienced an "Arab Spring" uprising is now either in anarchy or under the control of Islamic Extremists. Since you were the SoS during these times and apparently encouraged the uprising, do you feel remorse for the state of affairs in these countries now and for the suffering women and girls are enduring?

And I’d add a couple of my own:

Hillary, George Soros spent $33 million bankrolling the Ferguson demonstrations to drive national protests which ruined an innocent cop’s life, ruined many small -- often minority-owned -- businesses, destroyed the property values of the Ferguson residents, and cost the city and state countless millions.

He has also contributed $24 million to pro-Hillary super PACs. Do you endorse his actions?

Will you condemn Soros and those PACs for accepting his money?

Hillary, are you concerned that four members of the Clinton Foundation’s Board “either been charged with or convicted of serious crimes, including bribery and fraud.” 

I’d ask why, of the hundreds of millions of dollars the Foundation has collected, only 15% went for programmatic grants and whether this was of concern to her.

Heck -- it’s just a dream. I’m sure the media sharpies who asked Dr. Carson if he endorsed a supplement maker just because of his paid appearances at their conferences will get around to asking her these things on their own. And I’m sure they’ll do that with respect to all the contributors to the Clinton Foundation like Hizb’allah supporter Issam Fares, Qatar, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, who certainly understand how misogyny  hurts her personally.

But those top men and women don’t need any ideas from me.

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