Let’s Play Gotcha At The YouTube Debate…Or Not
Nicholas Von Hoffman writes about the embarrassing and unprofessional Russert/Williams Democratic Debate tag team of two weeks ago:
Brian Williams started the bear-baiting with a question designed both to embarrass Barack Obama and get a rise out of Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Tim Russert cast himself as a political Jerry Springer, posing questions that had no other purpose than to get these politicians fighting each other as they do in those daytime television spectacles. Mr. Russert left the viewer with the impression that he believes he should be running for president. His intention was plain. He was to be the superior one, the poised person with the correct answers while the candidates were made to look like a clutch of clumsy, ox-brained tangle-foots.
Mr. Russert has found a safe way to be a bully and to embarrass those who do not have the protection afforded by the role of journalist. This is not a case of media bias. Mr. Russert has no discernible political leaning. What we are looking at is a case of egotism, of self-dramatization, of the hammy display of a prancing public personality.
Under no rules of debate conduct is moderator allowed to mock and make fun of one of the debaters. And other than to make Dennis Kucinich a butt of laughter there could have been no other reason for Mr. Russert asking the following question:
“Congressman Kucinich, I want to move to a different area, because this is a serious question. The godmother of your daughter, Shirley MacLaine, writes in her new book that you sighted a UFO over her home in Washington State, that you found the encounter extremely moving, that it was a ‘triangular craft, silent and hovering,’ that you ‘felt a connection to your heart and heard directions in your mind.’
Now, did you see a UFO?”
To which one can only ask, “And, Mr. Russert, did you feel like the wiseass you are when you posed that question to Mr. Kucinich?” The congressman, mistaken or not in his beliefs, is a thoughtful, passionate, incorruptible and brave man. Well, Mr. Cheap Shot Artist, you got your laugh.
And then there’s tonight’s Republican YouTube debate:
Most questions online have been pulled from public viewing for review, but many of the remaining posts involve asking the candidates to defend their opposition to gay marriage and abortion. Those kinds of “lobbying grenades” would be disqualified by the CNN selection team, Mr. Bohrman said.
“There are quite a few things you might describe as Democratic ‘gotchas,’ and we are weeding those out,” Mr. Bohrman said. CNN wants to ensure that next Wednesday’s Republican event is “a debate of their party.”
The majority of Americans believe that women should have the right to have dominion over her own body and have an abortion if she so chooses, and “gay marriage” sure was fair game for the GOP when they were using it to bait wingnuts and get them to the polls. They’re entirely reasonable topics for inquiry and there’s nothing “gotcha” about refusing to allow Republican candidates to insulate themselves within the worldview of a 25% bubble.
It’s all in the way you ask the question, really. “So Rudy, when you were banging Judy in the Hamptons…” might not be the most diplomatic way to pose a question over security expenses he billed to the city of New York during their…ugh… but that doesn’t mean it should be off-limits as a topic of inquiry.
(please consider this an open debate thread)