The Debate Circus

Hugh Hewitt

11/11/2011 9:56:00 AM - Hugh Hewitt

In case you were thinking that the GOP would-be nominees had pretty much been obliged to exchange pleasantries with every single talking head on every cable network, think again. Here’s the schedule of debates left in 2011:

Saturday, November 12: CBS, the National Journal and the South Carolina Republican Party hosts a debate at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina at 8 PM EST.

Saturday, November 19: The Thanksgiving Family Forum rolls out at the First Federated Church in Des Moines at 5 PM EST.

Tuesday, November 22: The American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation inexplicably team up with CNN–how many swings and misses does CNN get this debate season before someone realizes they are incapable of running anything remotely like a fair debate?-in Washington D.C., at 8 PM EST.

Saturday, December 10: ABC and the Republican Party of Iowa bring the candidates back to Des Moines, this time to Drake University, at 9 PM EST.

Thursday, December 15: It is Fox News’ turn, partnered again with the Republican Party of Iowa, but this time at the Sioux City Convention Center, again at 9 PM EST.

Monday, December 19: This one is guaranteed to be the crowning glory of smug media. Iowa PBS plus the Newshour of national PBS fame, plus the Des Moines Register and assisted by Google and You Tube wrap up the year’s debating marathon. Because of Christmas shopping no doubt, this debate gets underway at 4 PM EST.

Thus six more made-for-TV gathering, managed almost completely by Beltway-Manhattan media elites that, as Newt Gingrich pointed out, don’t know history or economics, but who have done a wonderful job trying to embarrass all the candidates when they weren’t attempting to start fights between them.

What would be refreshing would be if the front-runner (a 70.6% probability of nomination at InTrade this morning) Mitt Romney and the two other plausible candidates, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Speaker Newt Gingrich were to make a joint deal followed by a joint announcement that while they have no objection to the schedule, they will not be appearing unless (1) every answer in every situation be allowed at least three minutes in response from everyone called upon to speak, and (2) the candidates get to choose the individuals who will ask at least half of the questions to assure that issues of concern to Republican primary voters finally get an opportunity not to hear the prejudices and often hilarious biases of the MSM repackaged as questions but rather get to hear real questions about the serious problems the president has bequeathed his successor.

The debates to date have had an enormous impact on the race, almost certainly scuttling Perry’s campaign while boosting Herman Cain’s until the point where the MSM knives came out and began the bleeding process which continues and will not stop. The two “serious” candidates other than Romney and Perry –the Governors Pawlenty and Huntsman—were diminished by formats that never allowed them to explain exactly what it is that governors actually do and learn. Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann were branded as irrelevant by the debates as surely as if they had been off stage, and Ron Paul got his eight additional 15 minutes of fame to be followed by another dozen or quarter hours to come, repeatedly sending the message that the GOP cannot manage even its own nomination process.

The world economy is watching with a great deal of alarm as Europe struggles to a resolution of its many crises. Iran is revealed to have the ambitions for nukes all the serious people have known about but the MSM either scoffed at or doesn’t understand, and the EPA is poised to issue rule after rule that are killing thousands of jobs but it is too complicated for the designated questioner to grapple with. And Obamacare continues its deadly roll-out, suffocating jobs, driving up premiums and crushing employment, but the media wizards don't know how to or don't care to try to open the floor to a sustained, detailed conversation on what to do next, after the repeal which must come.

What a farce.

Romney has stayed above it, refused every attempted media provocation, and repeatedly tried to get the panels and thus the audience to focus on the economy.

Gingrich has earned wide admiration for his scorn of the media, and he should continue to wear that disdain as a badge of honor.

And the GOP State Parties that are participants in this traveling circus need to start dictating some minimum terms to get more for their voters out of this than backstage passes, Green Room goodies and a picture with Anderson Cooper.