Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Playing To The Freepers
Kos had this up yesterday so I assume you've already seen it. Still, it's worth memorializing throughout the blogosphere:
This is the network that certain Nevada politicians think the party should legitimize as a regular news organization by having them host a Democratic debate. Fair, balanced and sometimes even technically factual.
Evidently, the thinking is that Fox viewers are just naive babes in the woods who can be turned into Democrats if only they can hear Democrats debate. Let's suppose their average viewer, a 63 year old white conservative Republican male tunes in to his usual programming and instead finds a woman, a black man, a trial lawyer, a New England senator, a peace candidate from Ohio and the man who gave the Pentagon papers to the NY Times debating. And let's further suppose he listens intently and is intrigued by what he hears. These Democrats are making a lot of sense. What's going on?
Assuming that ridiculous scenario is plausible, the question is, will they still be intrigued once their favorite Fox commentators weigh in with their analysis right after the debate?
You be the judge. Here's the analysis after the first Fox-hosted debate in 2003:
TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome to Washington. I'm Tony Snow. You've just seen a debate by Democratic presidential candidates at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. The debate, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Fox News channel.
We're going to talk about the debate for the bulk of the hour. Joining me now in Washington, our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; Ceci Connolly, national correspondent for the "Washington Post," all Fox News contributors.
Fred, impressions first. Any winners tonight?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Not really. Maybe Al Sharpton. It makes a difference when Sharpton's there. It was much livelier debate, as a result. That's for sure. He wasn't there in New Mexico last week, although Lieberman was livelier tonight than he's been before and so on.
So, it was a zippier debate but, I think, uneventful in the outcome of the Democratic presidential fight.
I think Democrats have one problem in these debates and that is they talk about an America, they criticize what's going on and they create a picture of an America that I think most people don't recognize, you know. It's an America where the Patriot Act is creating a police state and where, as Al Sharpton said, soldiers come home and they can't get an education, they can't get a house, you know. They can't get a job or anything like that.
You know, there's this health care crisis that is ruining the country and we're involved in another Vietnam. And people in Florida are denied the right to vote. I don't think most Americans recognize that as the real America.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Obviously, they are not appealing to the whole of America. What they are trying to do is to appeal to the Democratic primary voter. And the way that you appeal most to Democratic primary voters is to beat up on George Bush.
I mean, practically anytime anybody asked a substantive question they had a little bit of an answer about what they would do, you know, on the subject, but the rest of it was an attack on what George Bush has not done or failed to do or lied about or et cetera, et cetera.
And it's because the Democratic primary core voters are so enraged at George Bush that they have to -- you know, they have to feed that beast.
And the most -- the best example of this is Joe Lieberman, who's probably the most moderate of them all and constantly is waving the bloody shirt of Florida, you know, that black voters were disenfranchised, were prevented from going to the polls in Florida, et cetera, et cetera. It's replaying the sore of the 2000 election.
So, you know, that's what this is all about. This was not an attempt to appeal to the average voter.
CECI CONNOLLY, "WASHINGTON POST": Not a bad political strategy, necessarily, though. I mean, if you talk about -- think about it, one of these Democrats is hoping to get a big chunk of black voters out in those primaries, especially that South Carolina primary, which I think is third in the line, right after Iowa and New Hampshire.
So I think it's understandable why you heard some of that rhetoric this evening. You heard a lot of beating up on Attorney General John Ashcroft, a lot of talk about the Patriot Act, civil rights. Although interestingly, none of them were very specific about how they'd want to change those things or what their prescriptions are for some of those problems.
I think that it's got to be very difficult right now if you're a Democratic primary voter to make a decision between this group.
SNOW: And one of the reasons why it was difficult, Fred, is with the exception of what one sort of exchange between Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman, nobody's taking shots at each other. At this point, it's all trying to differentiate themselves from the president rather than each other.
BARNES: It is mainly that. There's one other example, though. Dennis Kucinich takes shots at the other candidates, particularly the ones who voted in favor of the war resolution in Congress, and that's Gephardt and Kerry in particular. Graham voted against it.
But, you know, they generally agree. They're saying the same things, you know, and blaming Bush for all of them. At one time, I think it was Sharpton, some schools have closed in St. Louis. Sharpton said it was Bush's fault.
KONDRACKE: I thought that the one substantively -- besides the fight between Lieberman and Dean over Israel, which we can presumably discuss some more, the other interesting substantive point tonight was on the question of whether we can win or should win the conflict in Iraq or pull out.
And Lieberman, Dean, and Kerry all said this one way or another we have to win this or we have to succeed there, and not one of them was willing to say that he's against voting for the $87 billion that the president is asking for.
SNOW: All right. We're going to take a quick break. When we return, Carl Cameron is going to be in Spin Alley, hearing from the various candidates and their camps. We'll bring that to you right after a short break. Stay with us
Do you think that intrigued Fox viewer is as sanguine in his unexpected impressions as he was a few minutes before?
Carl Cameron then went over the highlights of the debate, including this observation, which surely would have been a surprising detail they hadn't thought of:
Joe Lieberman, of all of the interruptions that we saw in this debate, and there were a bunch of them by supporters of Lyndon Larouche, a man running who's been running for president as an independent and Democrat for years, a convicted tax cheat and something of a rabble-rouser.
Lots of interruptions today, at least three targeted at Joe Lieberman. And there were a number of people from the Lieberman campaign that pointed out the Larouche folks have a history of sort of anti-Semitism, and they felt as though perhaps he was being singled out for these interruptions.
Those anti-semitic, Lyndon Larouche Democrats are extremely rude, aren't they? It's a good thing this was a Fox debate where all the viewers who were unaware of LaRouche could be educated about him. (Psst. I think they were b-l-a-c-k too.)
Up to this point, we have not heard from one proclaimed Democrat since the last candidate spoke. Cameron finally intereviewed Elijah Cummings, member of the CBC, who sponsored the event with Fox and then the big finale:
SNOW: Welcome back. Time for final thoughts of our panelists.
Ceci Connolly, when somebody comes up to you tomorrow and says, "How did the debate go," what are you going to tell them?
CONNOLLY: A little bit snoozy, I have to confess.
But I wanted to come back for one second to Iraq, since that is so important right not. And for as much trouble as, I think, President Bush is having right now in Iraq, you saw that these Democratic candidates are not very clear on what to say about the issue either.
They were asked a straight yes or a no, would you support the president's request for $87 billion? And the only word to give the one- word answer was Representative Kucinich, who said a firm no.
The other interesting thing on Iraq tonight, I thought, was that Senator Graham had some of the toughest things to say about President Bush. He actually answered yes to the question of do you think President Bush misled Americans...
CONNOLLY: Deliberately misled the American public. He also called it a quagmire. And he said it's a distraction from the war on terror.
KONDRACKE: This was not a debate. There really was very little mixing it up among the candidates. The only person who was challenging any other candidate is Joe Lieberman, who took on Howard Dean today on Israel and took on Kerry on the issue of putting more troops into Iraq.
BARNES: Tony, there were two questions I liked that we haven't heard before. One, what about allowing naturalized citizens to become president, to run for president? I think it was Senator Graham who said he would favor that change in the Constitution. So would I.
And then, what's their favorite song. And some candidates were uncomfortable in trying to figure out what to say.
SNOW: Well, a lot didn't have favorite songs, but they thought them up on the fly.
OK, panel. Thank you very much, and thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for watching.
That's all the time we have. Stay tuned. HANNITY & COLMES is up next with more on the Democratic debate and President Bush's run for reelection.
HANNITY: Still to come tonight, Peter Fenn and Betsy Hart. They go head to head on tonight's debate. And later -- well, the very latest on the California recall. There's a lot of news out of California today.
But first, joining us from Washington, the co-director of Empower America, our good friend, it's Tuesday. That means Tuesdays with Bill Bennett.
Bill, I wonder if you agree with me. I watched this debate tonight, watched these nine candidates, and I come away from this that not one of these guys is qualified to be president of this great land. I come away that they have no serious plan to deal with the war on terror. They have - - I heard more shrillness from these guys. I'm not intimidated at all by what I heard tonight.
BILL BENNETT, EMPOWER AMERICA: There wasn't a lot of gravitas, I guess you'd say. I think that would be fair. There was a lot of attitude. There was a lot of dissing Bush. I have to tell you, though, Sean, I found it -- although not edifying, I found it entertaining and interesting. I disagree with Congressman Davis about Dean and Lieberman. This was -- this was Al Sharpton's show. I mean, it was Al Sharpton...
HANNITY: I agree.
BENNETT: ... and eight mostly white, mostly dull people.
BENNETT: You know, he was...
BENNETT: I mean, he was interesting and funny and natural wit and verve. And he also, you know, would make a great high school principal. I mean, given the disruption in the hall, and so on. Now, you know the record. This guy is not a great guy, the Tawana Brawley case and all. But boy, he is a presence in the Democratic Party. And by the way, he has made Jesse Jackson disappear. He is -- you know, he is the new -- he is the new guy in that role.
BENNETT: But I think, in terms of the larger picture, Sean, the more serious point is, if Al Gore and Hillary were watching, if the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council, was watching, they have to say somebody there may get the nomination, but nobody there tonight...
HANNITY: Can win.
BENNETT: ... I think showed that they could be the president.
So this is what the average 63 year old white, male conservative Republican Fox viewer that the Democrats think they will reach can expect to see. They will watch the Fox news All Stars insult and trivialize the candidates. They can see them imply that convicted felon Lyndon laRouche is an anti-semitic Democrat. They can watch them barely restrain their (very clever) sarcastic and patronizing racism by continuously pointing out that Al Sharpton "won" the debate. Throughout these exchanges the Fox all-stars are smirking and giggling like a bunch of schoolboys at the fat kid they stuck the "kick me" sign on.
Let's be clear here. Fox news likes to host Democratic debates in order to maintain the fiction they are an unbiased network. But they also format them in such a way as to send plenty of coded, rightwing messages to their viewers, the most hardcore Republicans in the nation.
Fox News particularly likes to host the Congressional Black Caucus debates for the express purpose of riling and entertaining the racist Republican pigs who watch their network, on behalf of the Republican Party. I know how they're received --- I watched that one in the company of a racist Republican and he got the message loud and clear.
After the Nevada debate the CBC plan another Fox debate for this cycle. It's a big mistake. The CBC and the Democratic party gain absolutely nothing by doing this.
John Edwards has done the right thing by refusing to appear at the Nevada debate. I hope the other Democrats follow. I also fervently hope that the CBC does not allow itself to be used again by FOX News to subtly convey a derisive, racist message to its viewers. It is wrong to subject good Democrats to this kind of coverage in order to see their candidates and their issues debated and discussed. There are plenty of other venues that don't feature "analysis" that isn't exclusively hostile to Democrats.
digby 3/07/2007 09:09:00 AM