Hugh Hewitt

Instead, incredibly, we got extended sideshows, including yet another contraception question last night, as though John King's producers simply do not understand it isn't about contraception. (Of course they do know that, but they love to indulge their condescension about the issue and their hope that it drives way voters from the GOP.)

Yesterday the Atlantic's able Conor Friedersdorf penned a lenghty response to my recurring complaint about the decision of the GOP to cede control of these nearly two-dozen jousts to the MSM. Read it now if the aftermath of what is probably the last debate.

Before I answer it specifically, please read my eight minute interview of Rick Santorum from Tuesday's show, the transcript of which is here. In less than ten minutes we cover campaign finance and Obama's blow-up of the old system despite his promise not to do so in 2008, the Ex-Im bank debate, the senator's proposed support of the manufacturing sector via the tax code, and the slaughter in Syria. Lots of people could conduct such an interview, and a lot of conservative broadcasters could do so in their sleep while maintaining fairness towards all the candidates and avoiding the absurd shoals on which the MSM has so often beached in the past many months of these carnivals.

A two hour debate moderated by any of the following would be deeply interesting and deeply informative: Rush, Sean, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Mike Gallagher or Dennis Prager.

Conor argues that candidates "would much rather field predictable questions from conventional mainstream media reporters than whatever unpredictable, ethically thorny hypothetical Dennis Prager might dream up." That just isn't true since the candidates go on Dennis' show just as they come on mine and many of the others where they will be treated fairly even if asked a surpising question or two or ten. The candidates didn't veto the panelists for the televised debates, the networks pushed forward their regklars because they are trying to cement in ratings when in fact they are destorying their ratings in the center-right world by proving time after time that their hosts/producers/execs are hostile to the GOP and eager to defend Obama.

Beyond conservative broadcast journalists there are a score of center-right columnists and talking heads who would make marvelous moderators --Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Fred Barnes, Mary Katharine Ham, Michale Barone, Byron York, Mark Steyn, Michelle Malkin, etc -- but none appeared in the course of over twenty debates. How absurd.

What would have been useful, at least once, was a full debate devoted to the damage done to the country by the president. The GOP electorate wants to know which of the candidates would best express the collective, utter disdain for the president's hard left lurch, a lurch so comprehensive that it is difficult to name all the issues on which it could be explored, from Obamacare and the stimulus to the recent recess appointments and the attack on the Catholic Church. The GOP electorate would have been served by moderators and panelists who shared their deeply critical view of the president to see which of the candidates would have best understood and amplified that critique, using creative language and arguments to demonstrate an ability to carry the campaign to the terrain in which the center-right wants to fight it --the future of America.

The debates seem to have left Romney the nominee, and probably his best answer last night --which turned yet another absurd contraception question into the platform on which to assail the president's attack on religious conscience and especially the Catholic Church-- sealed the deal for many voters wondering who would make the best opponent.

But Obama should have been through the wringer by now, and any fair set of debates would have fully unveiled the deep unease at least half of the country has with his often radical and sometimes simply incoherent policies and trial balloons. 300 nukes, really? Closing Gitmo unilaterally in term two? Intervening in Libya but not Syria, why? Recess appointments of these jobs and not others? Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Gibson Guitars, the NLRB and EPA?

The debate season ended with the GOP coffers emptier than they were, the candidates a bit bloodier than might have happened had these been serious exercises, but with the strongest general election candidate in the lead and the likely nominee. It will now be the job of talk radio to do what MSM has refused, which is to provide platforms for the Romney (or whomever is the nominee) to make the case that MSM kept in the basement throughout six months of their style of "journalism."

And that we will do. Whether the MSM knows it or not, they drove half the country even further away from any sort of trust in their product. Trust is earned, and they refused to even try to earn it.

Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt is host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Hugh Hewitt's new book is The War On The West.