Skip to comments.The Debate Winner
Posted on 12/12/2011 6:29:32 PM PST by smoothsailing
December 19, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 14
Republicans are paying a high price for allowing their presidential race to be dominated by nationally televised debates. The GOP candidates have reduced themselves to supplicants whose weak points are probed by media questioners. Meanwhile, theyve given President Obama a free pass to set the terms of the 2012 campaign.
Obama has seized the opportunity. His effort culminated last week in the most divisive speech by a president in the lifetime of most Americans. Obama positioned himself as the champion of middle-class Americans whose future is threatened by Republicans tolerant of breathtaking greed and inequality that we havent seen since the Great Depression.
He acts as if the first three years of his presidencymarked by the failure of his policies to revive the economy and the enactment of Obamacaresimply didnt exist. What matters now, according to Obama, is thwarting Republicans and creating economic fairness. In his words, its the defining issue of our time.
Obama has largely gotten away with this argument. The press has neither called him on it nor faulted him for fleeing from his record. And many Republicans dont take his case for class warfare seriously enough to combat it. Or if theyve tried, their criticism has drawn little attention.
Why? Because the media are obsessed with the debates as the only meaningful voice of Republicans at the moment. There have been 16 TV debates so far, with three more scheduled before the Iowa caucuses on January 3. Youd think the Republican presidential candidates would tire of the format. But they keep showing up.
Obama is not on the debate agenda. Rather, the media sponsors are eager to generate excitement, which means bickering and tension and name-calling among the candidates. They force the candidates to focus on each other, never on Obama. The candidates either go along willingly or acquiesce. Newt Gingrich has complained occasionally about the triviality of some of the questions, but hes never missed one of the debates.
So it adds up to this: Republican candidates and their minions have devoted the past six months to preparing for debates, debating, then talking about how the debates went. The president has concentrated on fleshing out a self-serving narrative for his reelection and now is trying to impose it on the campaign. Whose time was spent more productively?
Besides aiding Obama, Republicans have hurt themselves in numerous ways by letting the debates be the organizing events of the campaign. The stronger candidates have been diminished by appearing, debate after debate, on equal footing with also-rans whose chances of winning the partys presidential nomination are nil.
With debates so frequent, peripheral candidates have no incentive to drop out. Fundraising, building an organization, developing policy papersthese arent needed to qualify for debates. The willingness to show up is sufficient. For also-rans, availability is their strong suit.
Lining up the also-rans gives debate sponsors the leverage to persuade the more serious candidates to participate. Who would want to be represented by an empty chair in a debate watched by five or six million likely voters? Not Gingrich or Mitt Romney.
The debates have distracted the media from policy positions advanced by the candidates. Romney put out a 59-point economic plan. It got minimal attention. When he took a surprisingly bold position on entitlement reform, it too was mostly ignored. Attempting to outline his positions in 30 seconds or one minute would be a futile exercise.
Jon Huntsman brought up his impressive tax reform plan in the debates, but his media interrogators didnt bite. What did work was Herman Cains catchy 9-9-9 tax scheme. It may not have stood up to scrutiny, but examination of a plan for reforming the tax code is impossible in a debate broken into 30-second or one-minute interventions.
Maybe thats too picky. But making a candidates debating ability a major criterion for presidential status misses a point. Presidents are required to do many things, but debating is not one of them. Prime ministers debate, but we dont have a parliamentary system.
Yet in the Republican race, debates have marginalized every other aspect of the campaign. Rick Perry is the longest-serving governor in the history of Texas, but that proved to be worthless up against his poor performance in debates. Gingrich resigned from Congress in 1998 after a revolt by his Republican peers, but his effectiveness in debates transformed him into the frontrunner for the nomination.
Romney, more often than his rivals, was declared the winner of debates. But he turns out to be a loser. He was too cautious, declining to make a strong pitch for conservatives and thus broaden his base of support. Gingrich was expansive and had nothing but praise for the other candidates. He was the big winner of the debate sweepstakes.
Along with Obama. Hes marketed, with some success, the notion that the 2012 election is a choice between the rich and the middle class. Caught up in debates, Republicans have been too busy to give this notion the drubbing it deserves.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
No empty chair for Jon Huntsman Saturday night. Barnes is a media TNR douchebag.
Was Huntsman even invited? Isn’t there something about a minimum average polling number?
Agree with Fred Barnes completely.
Republican candidates are getting picked over like crows on a dead animal.
Perry came accross presidential. It was good to see.
It's no different than when any other sitting president is running unopposed for his party's nomination. After the R. nominee has been chosen, all these negatives brought up in the primary campaign will be old news.
Agree on Santorum. I do think they shouldn’t drop anyone else until after the Iowa Caucus.
In any event, it would be just Perry’s luck to be dropped now that he’s starting to get the hang of this debate thing.
Come to think of it, he might be relieved, retail politics is his strong suit IMO.
Sad isnt it? People are looking for a Debater in Chief: someone who can talk well, regardless of his core beliefs and convictions. A lot of Newt supporters are waiting with baited breath to see Newt debate Obama, because the entertainment value will be magnificent.
Who really cares about America? Are those searching for a glib personality to deliver debate entertainment, or those searching for a genuine conservative to captain the ship of state during these difficult times?
But making a candidates debating ability a major criterion for presidential status misses a point. Presidents are required to do many things, but debating is not one of them. Prime ministers debate, but we dont have a parliamentary system.
Thats exactly right. But after 8 years of Bush bashing by the media, I understand why people desperately want to find someone who doesnt embarrass them when he speaks. The only problem is that notwithstanding Newts ability to speak well, the exploitation of his baggage by a relentless media sympathetic to Obama will be a major embarrassment for the campaign.
Huntsman skipped because he’s not competing for Iowa and there were three major Iowa debates scheduled in a nine day timeframe.
I didn’t like these debates in 2007, and I don’t really like them now. Barnes is absolutely right that the candidates have “reduced themselves to supplicants” before self-important news media personalities. Fred Thompson pointing out the absurdity of the hand-raising questions should have woken them up.
While the “Lincoln-Douglas” moniker is a tad overused, Gingrich is absolutely right that we need debates that are actual debates, with a timekeeper and no moderator. It should be the candidates setting the agenda, not Diane Sawyer or Brian Williams.
Just an innocent mistake using similar sounding words. Everyone does it. I do it all the rhyme.
>>>Yeah, and then the next day, he called Solyndra a country. Read the article in this FR Thread. Guv. dude is friggin’ retarded.<<<
Wrong no dems, the Governor isn’t retarded. He’s just human, and you don’t like him.
Obradovich: You struggled in the early debates even though you’ve had some good ones recently. Do you regret at all not getting out to Iowa earlier and getting your feet wet with a lot more questions from Iowans before you had to answer those kind of questions on national television?
Perry: Looking back and trying woulda, coulda, shoulda is an interesting question to ask but the facts are the facts. I mean, I didn’t even make the decision to run until very late June and I had surgery on my back the first of July and ...
Obradovich: How is your back? Are you doing good?
Perry: My back is great, I’m back running again for the last six weeks so I think part of the reason you’ve seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is that my health is, really both physically and mentally, just really back in the game from the standpoint you have a fusion on your back and it takes you a while to get back on your game.
Obradovich: So, were you not feeling good in those early debates?
Perry: I would suggest to you I was pretty fatigued. But no excuses, it was there, it’s what it is and, look, if anybody’s looking for a perfect candidate I’m not it. If they’re looking for the perfect debater, if they’re looking for someone that is going to have the answer to every question and never make a mistake I’m not their candidate. But if they’re looking for somebody that knows how to run this big government and particularly substantially downsize it, get a balanced budget, get people back to work, lay out a clear plan, cut their taxes and make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in their lives as we can then I am their guy.
Obradovich: You went on a round of the late night talk shows after that first kind of debate snafu and really poked fun at yourself. Does that come naturally to you?
Perry: Oh yeah.
Obradovich: It does?
Perry: I made fun of myself at a couple of church services this morning. It is what it is. Again, anybody that stands up for public service is going to have some things happen to them and the media is going to report what they report and, again, I’m not perfect and I forget things, I misstate some things but I think Americans are looking for somebody that will admit when they’re wrong, admit when they make a mistake and don’t even mind poking some fun at themselves. So, yeah, it comes pretty natural for me to go, yeah, I stepped in it and press on and stay focused on the work at hand.
Aw, come on, how long are you guys gonna make excuses for this dolt?