This kind of baiting would never happen in a Democratic debate, even if Fox News furnished the moderators. After an extensive back-and-forth on this issue, Stephanopoulos tried to keep it going by turning the ball over to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, nudging him to pile on both Santorum and Paul. Why settle for a back-and-forth when you can have a three-way?
Before Stephanopoulos' next turn, for good measure, moderator Josh McElveen, as if trying to perpetuate a gossip chain in a schoolyard, asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich how he would respond to Paul's calling him a "chicken hawk."
But the evening's award performance goes to Stephanopoulos, for his next round of questions to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Completely out of the blue, manufacturing an issue out of whole cloth, Stephanopoulos asked, "Gov. Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?"
To his credit, Romney called him on it: "George, this is an unusual topic that you're raising."
When Romney wouldn't take the bait, Stephanopoulos argued with him, derisively reminding Romney that Romney had attended Harvard Law School and therefore couldn't pretend not to understand the issue -- as if Romney's understanding of the issue, as opposed to its stunning irrelevance, were what Romney was reacting to.
But Stephanopoulos held on to the question like a rabid terrier, petulantly making himself and his asinine line of questioning the issue. Perhaps Stephanopoulos, in a most convoluted way, was trying to get Romney to denounce the Supreme Court's judicial establishment of a Ninth Amendment right to privacy, ultimately culminating in the infamous abortion decision, Roe v. Wade.
More likely, Stephanopoulos was angling, via a pathetic effort at Socratic questioning, to lay a trap for Romney that would expose him as the flip-flopper he's reputed to be and knock him down a peg or three. For Stephanopoulos next said, "But you've given two answers to the question."
Romney obviously didn't even know what Stephanopoulos was talking about. He had invoked an irrelevant issue and tried to trick Romney into answering it the way he wanted him to so he could pounce, and when Romney didn't, he supplied Romney's answer(s) anyway because he was determined to ensnare him, even if the ghost of Socrates wasn't cooperating.
With a half-century of experience as a witness to liberal media bias, I'm not easily shocked or outraged by current displays of it, but George Stephanopoulos deserves special notoriety for his disgraceful performance Saturday night.