Imagine a debate between the candidates for President in which Sean Hannity, Michael Barone and Laura Ingraham asked the questions.
Such a debate will never happen because the Democrats don’t feel the need to pretend that conservative journalists and commentators are “nonpartisan” or to pander to the conservative media the way establishment Republicans feel compelled to pander to the national media.
The result is that Republican presidential candidates are always outnumbered two to one in a fight that pits them against a liberal debate moderator and their liberal Democratic opponent.
After last week’s debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, moderator and PBS host, James Lehrer, was roundly criticized by his fellow liberals for not wading in and helping Obama.
However, he did manage to let slip several interesting “tells” of his liberal bias, including among others, referring to Romney’s economic plans as “trickle down,” and also breaking up Romney’s train of thought when he was prosecuting especially effective attacks on Obama by calling time. He'd call Romney on time while letting Obama go well past his deadline to finish his thoughts.
But these were fairly minor things compared to how Lehrer handled the 2000 debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Back in 2000 Lehrer moderated all three presidential debates. In the third one, as the Media Research Center pointed out, “a town hall debate, Lehrer approved mostly liberal questions from the ‘uncommitted’ audience. Eight questions came from the left, only two could be counted as conservative, and five were requests for information without an ideological tone.”
And that’s the key to how liberal bias at the debates -- and in the media at large -- works. It is not so much that reporters will lie or make up things to make conservatives look bad; it is the premises of the questions -- and even the questions themselves -- that accept an underlying belief in liberal policy choices.
It is the old joke about asking a candidate “When did you stop beating your spouse?” turned into “Why do you want to starve poor people by sending food stamp programs back to the states?”
Any Republican candidate who is smart enough to be President ought to be smart enough to see that the way to defeat Obama is to stop letting liberals like James Lehrer, Martha Raddatz, Candy Crowley and Robert Schieffer set the agenda through these debates, and to instead, get out on the stump to sell conservative policy solutions to the crises facing our country.
But the problem isn’t so much the Republican presidential candidates as it is the establishment Republicans on The Commission on Presidential Debates.
More reflective of the Republican Party of 30 years ago (and the DC insiders of the Republican establishment) than it is of today’s more conservative GOP, the Republicans on the Commission are all too ready to cede the role of debate moderator and agenda setter to the establishment media elite they meet at Georgetown salons.
That’s how, even in the face of three decades of proof that establishment journalism has a hard left tilt, we always end up with liberal debate moderators like this year’s group: Lehrer, Martha Raddatz, Candy Crowley and Robert Schieffer.
The bad news for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in this year’s debates is that since Lehrer was hammered by his fellow liberals for not being an aggressive moderator, they can expect the moderators of the rest of the debates – reliable liberals Martha Raddatz, Candy Crowley and Robert Schieffer -- to avoid the pounding Lehrer took by doing their best to help Obama.
Martha Raddatz, who will moderate the vice presidential debate, is a fawning member of the Washington liberal sisterhood that has promoted and supported Hillary Clinton since the day she arrived in DC back in 1993. Raddatz has deep ties to the old line liberal establishment media and to the Obama administration, having been married to the son of Washington’s ultimate establishment liberal, long time Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, and then later to Obama’s FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski.
Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent for CNN, is likewise a longtime member of Washington’s liberal sisterhood, who's famous for saying during the 2008 campaign cycle that she brought her daughter to see Hillary Clinton, “you know, because I think this might be history."
However, this is the treatment the equally historic candidacy of Republican Michele Bachmann received from Crowley: "We have a poll where the majority of Americans said you all need to compromise on this debt ceiling, you all need to raise the debt ceiling, and it ought to be -- the deal ought to include a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. You are opposed to both raising the debt ceiling and that kind of compromise. So doesn't that put you outside the mainstream?" – CNN’s Candy Crowley to Rep. Michele Bachmann, August 14, 2011 State of the Union.
CBS News anchor, and Face the Nation host, Bob Schieffer may not be quite equal to Lehrer in stature among the old time Washington journalism establishment, but he is second to none in promoting the liberal agenda in the media – especially the liberal fable that Republicans must “move to the center” to win a national election.
At least twice in the past month or so Schieffer has called upon Mitt Romney to renounce the conservative agenda and to say he is a moderate.
“Do you think that Mitt Romney’s got to move a little bit more toward the center here as we come toward the election?” Schieffer asked a guest on Face the Nation. Fortunately for Romney that guest was Newt Gingrich, who forcefully rebuffed the suggestion by saying, “No, I think Mitt Romney has to move to clarity in drawing the contrast between the two futures...”
The Commission on Presidential Debates, as presently structured, has institutionalized the power to set the agenda in the final month of the campaign in the hands of the Washington media’s establishment elite, and in so doing has once again left Republicans looking like the party of stupid for agreeing to cede so much power to the liberals who moderate the debates and who are so hostile to Republican candidates and the conservative agenda.
Thursday, Oct. 11 — V.P. debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. Moderator: ABC's Martha Raddatz.
Tuesday, Oct. 16 — Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. (town meeting format). Moderator: CNN's Candy Crowley.
Monday, Oct. 22 — Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. (foreign policy). Moderator: CBS' Bob Schieffer.