At last night's Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer spoke for more time than five of the seven candidates, repeatedly getting in the way of substantive discussion by reducing issues to yes/no options. But it wasn't until the audience got its chance to ask questions that the CNN team demonstrated how inflated in self-importance our leading broadcast journalists have become during presidential campaigns.
After a commercial break, undecided voter LaShannon Spencer posed the following question, which was greeted with applause by the crowd: "We constantly hear health care questions and questions pertaining to the war. But we don't hear questions pertaining to the Supreme Court justice or education. My question is, if you are elected president, what qualities must the appointee possess?"
This question was the first posed about the court during the debate, and the audience greeted it with applause. But Suzanne Malveaux, the CNN anchor assigned to audience duty, couldn't leave it alone and let the candidates speak. She added a question of her own: "I'd like to get to Senator Dodd, if you would. And in answering that question, also tell us whether or not you would require your nominees to support abortion rights."
After Dodd answered the question, Blitzer posed it to all of the candidates: "All right, let's go through the whole panel. I want everybody to weigh in. This is an important question that was raised. I'll start with Senator Biden. Would you insist that any nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court supported abortion rights for women?"
Last night's voter questions were better and more serious than the ones asked by CNN (with one exception at the end). On the court question, Blitzer and Malveaux reduced the voter to a prop, replacing her question with their own and telling the audience how "important" it was.
The arrogance was so apparent that Sen. Joe Biden, much to his credit, chided them for it:
Biden: Suzanne's decided. I'm not answering her question. I'm answering the question of the woman who is there. Okay? (Cheers, applause.) And -- number one. And then I'll answer Suzanne's question.
Blitzer: Well, let's ask the woman. Do you want him to answer that question?
Biden: Do you want me to answer your question?
Spencer: I would like for you to answer both questions.
Despite the admonishment, Malveaux did it again as the debate was drawing to a close.
Frank Perconte, a student at UNLV where the debate was being held, posed this question: "Whether it's the continuing violence in Iraq, or if it's a potential confrontation with Iran, or even the emerging instability in Pakistan, nothing seems to be getting any better in the Middle East. It only seems to be getting worse. And if the upcoming election is anything like the last two elections, if any of you is elected, in all likelihood, you'll be presiding over an extremely divided electorate. Almost half the country is not going to agree with you on the direction you want to take this country to meet those challenges in the Middle East. So my question to you is, assuming you are elected, the day after you take the oath of office, what message will you offer the whole country, to unite all of us behind you, so that you can see us through this period of transition that we're in?"
Malveaux couldn't just direct this question to candidates and let them run with it. She responded, "I'd like to refer that to Senator Obama. Senator Obama, you said on a TV interview just this past weekend, you didn't believe that Senator Clinton was able to unite this country. Why do you believe she can't?"
In the movie Broadcast News, Albert Brooks plays a high-minded TV reporter who finds his business being taken over by telegenic celebrity anchors and ratings-obsessed entertainment. Watching a colleague shed a tear on the air during an interview, Brooks laments, "Let's never forget, we're the real story, not them."
Like every film decrying the state of broadcast journalism, the film has proven to be prophetic. Sharing a stage in Vegas with the next Democratic nominee for president, Blitzer and Malveaux acted like they were the real story. But we're the ones who should be crying.
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The question about the perception that the ME was becoming even more of a problem was fascinating, and the management of CNN the most blatantly biased of all!
Immediately CNN directs the question and plays to the Clinton camp's Big Lie that the "boys" are ganging up on a poor little, helpless girl!
Why anyone would ever vote for this sort of propagandistic Big Lie politics, I'll never, ever understand!
Indeed, the entire party is becoming completely corrupt in this partisan ugliness and in sowing the seeds of defeat for the entire USA, in order to gain political advantage for SOME AMERICANS, only.
Even the question that was redirected to vilify the "boys" was defeatist in implying that the USA was responsible for increasing unrest in the ME! NEVER are the terrorists and Islamic fascists blamed -- only those who are allied with us to defeat human sacrifice!
This party of war profiteers can try and defeat a war against an outrightly EVIL enemy after 4 years of off-and-on fighting, while they brag about victory in a no fire war that we stayed eleven (11) years securing!!! ... and are still paying for "security" to save a Muslim region from WHAT!!!!???? Nothing ...
Yet, we can't stay and defend the freedom of 15+ millions of Iraqis against Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda and the power that issues from the disintegrated body of one of their child sacrifices?
Partisanship has made tacit traitors of half of America ... unless a Democratic president is in control .... then anyone at all who utters even a slight criticism is a TRAITOR, ala Lieberman!
Absolutely despicable ...
Well said Rogers. These debates are increasingly painful to watch, and that should be the candidates' fault, not the broadcasters'.