After the Democratic "YouTube" Debate in Charleston a few months ago, we decided that political discourse in this country had reached a new low. As we observed at the time:
Consider the range of "issues" raised by those hip, edgy YouTubers: Free health care for illegal immigrants. Cutting and running from Iraq. Gay marriage. Sex education. U.S. military intervention in Darfur. Are you a liberal? What are you going to do about Global warming (from an animated snowman, no less). Would you work for the minimum wage? Should we pay reparations for slavery to African-Americans? What kind of tree would you be?
Okay, we borrowed that last one from Barbara Walters, but you get the general drift of last night's debate. No specifics on winning in Iraq (other that Joe Biden rehashing his partition plan). No strategy for the broader War on Terror (unless you count Barrack Obama's proposed dictator-coddling world tour). Keeping our military strong? Forget about it (and remember, the debate was held at the Citadel)! A plan for sustaining the economic growth of the last five years? Phuleeze. Stopping illegal immigration crisis? Don't make us laugh.
In other words, if the YouTube debate is an accurate barometer of the American electorate, we are in very serious trouble, indeed. Most of the so-called "experts" from the MSM are praising the format as "provocative," which suggests that (a) they're as dumb as last night's questioners, or (b) they enjoy watching political batting practice, masquerading as a serious political forum.
Sadly, last night's debate only proves a couple of political axioms. First, large number of voters are either ignorant, uniformed (or both), or they define presidential campaigns in terms of a single issue. And secondly, the sheer banality of those questions suggests that many Americans don't deserve the right to vote. The Talkmaster got it right when he suggested that the franchise should be extended to those who are net payers of income tax. After all, they're footing the bill for all that pandering, which eventually morphs into the next round of earmarks and political pork.
Watching the GOP version from St. Petersburg, Florida, last night, it became apparent that broadcast journalism has also reached its nadir. Or, more correctly, we should say that CNN-- which sponsored the debate with YouTube--has hit rock bottom. Only a few questions into the affair, Mrs. Spook (wise woman that she is) turned to Your Humble Correspondent and said, "those can't be Republican voters."
Boy, was she ever right.
As we've subsequently learned--thanks to the work of Michelle Malkin (and others)--many of the questioners were actually Democratic plants. Ms. Malkin quickly discovered that the young woman who posed an abortion question is actually a John Edwards supporter; "undecided" Log Cabin Republican David Cercone has endorsed Barack Obama, and "undecided" mom LeeAnn Anderson is an activist for the United Steelworkers Union (which has already endorsed Edwards).
But the ultimate "plant" was gay military retiree Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who serves on a steering committee for Hillary Clinton. In fact, the Clinton campaign issued a press release six months ago, touting his appointment. But CNN claims it was unaware of Kerr's affiliation, an explanation that Kevin Aylward finds lacking:
Anderson Cooper would have you believe that a network that could select this question, find that 13-year-old Romney quote, create the trap for Romney (which he fell face first into), and (presumably) fly Kerr to the debate, could not type “Keith Kerr, retired Colonel” into Google and find the link to the Hillary Clinton press release, which prior to the debate appeared in the first 10 results for that search?
Matthew Balan at Newsbusters is also unconvinced; he found a CNN article from 2003 which identified Kerr as a gay activist. There's also the unresolved issue of how General Kerr, who lives in California, wound up on the invitation list for the Florida debate. Did the network pay for his trip to St. Petersburg? How did the network decide that he was entitled to a "straight answer," in the debate hall? CNN owes viewers an explanation (and an apology); just how did the network develop a case of amnesia on Kerr's political ties; and how did all those Democratic activists make their way into a Republican debate? Don't hold your breath waiting for answers.
Of course, the GOP shares some of the blame, by agreeing to participate in this farce. With CNN in charge of selecting the questions (out of thousands submitted by YouTube users), there was ample opportunity for Democrats to "crash" the debate, aided and abetted by their friends at the Clinton News Network. Given CNN's long record of liberal bias, the GOP candidates had no reason to expect a fair and balanced forum last night; in that respect, the network didn't disappoint.
After watching the Democrats answer soft-ball questions in Charleston last summer (and last night's GOP potted plant show in St. Petersburg), it's time to call the YouTube format for what it is--one of the worst ideas in the history of American politics. Here's the brutal truth: there's nothing particularly innovative or ground-breaking about someone recording a question with a home video camera and posting it on the web. And, when most of the questions are softballs or plants, the forum loses any pretense at balance or objectivity. Voters looking for a substantive discussion of the issues would be better off watching C-SPAN.
As for CNN, their leftist agenda was readily visible at last night's forum, amid all those planted questions. If the GOP presidential candidates have anything approaching a (collective) spine, they should boycott any future forums sponsored or hosted by the network. As you'll recall, the Democratic hopefuls bailed out on a FoxNews debate months ago, claiming that the network was "biased." The plant show in Florida provides ample reason for GOP candidates to do the same thing to CNN.