You know the mainstream media's power exceeds its sound judgment and responsible stewardship when it abuses its control of a presidential debate to further its own ends rather than that of the public it purports to serve.
Based on the account by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, when 10 ABC News staffers met to draft questions for the upcoming Democratic presidential debate, ABC honchos were concerned not with advancing the public's knowledge of the candidates and their positions, but with their own ratings. How could they stir things up enough to stimulate viewership? At best, the public's edification would be an accidental byproduct.
So they decided they would get away from policy questions "that had bored viewers to tears in the previous debates." How would they do that? Well, by focusing on Howard Dean, and asking the other candidates why Dean is beating their socks off.
So what, you say? Well, it's just interesting to note the disconnect between the liberal media's stated mission: to inform the public, and their actions. Mainstream journalists consider it their hallowed mission, a sacred duty, a noble calling.
If you've been around these types, you've doubtlessly seen the sanctimonious air about them. They tell you that nothing is more important than providing the public with every morsel they deem fit for its consumption without regard for anything else, including personal privacy or sometimes even national security.
Yet these people (ABC) -- righteously dedicated to furthering the public's right to know -- embarked upon a course designed to stir controversy and ratings while doing nothing to contribute to the public's edification on the candidates' policy positions, or presidential abilities or character. (I realize I already said this above, but I like this wording better, so back off.)
Well, I haven't heard about the ratings, but Koppel's questions did generate some fireworks -- mostly directed back at him, and to some extent, at Al Gore, for heretically endorsing outsider Dean.
So I guess ABC is happy, even if its venerated Ted Koppel did take a deserved shot or two. But the public has learned nothing from the debate, except perhaps that Al Sharpton might be better suited for stand-up comedy and that Dennis Kucinich, despite his manifest lack of gravitas, is better on his feet and feistier than at least seven of the nine dwarfs.
Now, a touch of irony. Had Koppel not sparked a defensive reaction from the candidates, his line of questioning -- no thanks to him or his ABC colleagues -- could have elicited revealing responses about the alternative to President Bush that Howard Dean is offering and why he appeals to rank and file Democrats.
The answer, in a nutshell, is "rage" -- controlled perhaps, but rage nonetheless. You should see my e-mails from grassroots Democrats, or better yet, check out some of their Web sites, but beware the rage.
Howard Dean appeals to this rage, and Al Gore logically fits into the equation because much of the rage is still over the 2000 presidential election. So it makes perfect sense that Al Gore stabbed Joe Lieberman in the back and endorsed rage candidate Howard Dean. That Dean is all the rage!
This isn't just idle pundit-speculation on my part. I have it on no less an authority than former Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal, who argues that "Al Gore's backing of Howard Dean gives Democrats back their voice."
This is delusional stuff. Listen to Blumenthal: Above all, Democrats are consumed with a rising sense of injustice. They believe that democracy was undermined when the votes were not counted in Florida and the Supreme Court made George Bush president; that the social contract in place since the New Deal is being shredded; that internationalist alliances are being shattered; that the president lied about the reasons for war; that the Bush administration acts with authoritarian impunity … and that the media is being overwhelmed by the din of a right-wing echo chamber that masks itself as journalism."
We are talking about a party mired in self-pity and anger here at a time when we desperately need to direct our energies toward facing the challenges we face. Howard Dean -- and his myriad grassroots supporters -- offers a return to the New Deal, an abandonment of American sovereignty, and a Supreme Court that caters to liberal activist preferences 100 percent, instead of 95 percent of the time.
I hope Howard Dean captures the nomination. Then we'll see how much backtracking he has to do in his scramble to appeal to mainstream voters.