Kathleen Parker

As it turned out, Kerr is a member of Clinton's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender steering committee, though the general has said he merely lends his name to the group. He is also a co-chair on Clinton's national military veterans group and worked for John Kerry's presidential campaign.

None of that matters, of course, unless Kerr was a deliberate "plant" by the Clinton campaign. (Yet to be determined.) Kerr's question would have been legitimate -- if aimed at a deeper understanding of where the candidates stand on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

But that was clearly not where Kerr's sights were focused. The wording of the question -- reminiscent of "Have you stopped beating your wife?" -- implied that any who object to open homosexuality in the military for a range of reasons necessarily doubt our troops' professionalism.

Thus, the real aim was to frame the candidates as both homophobic and anti-troops. Nice try. Cooper, who played no part in selecting the questions, begged ignorance of Kerr's affiliation, as did CNN executives who apologized for the oversight.

Apologies notwithstanding, the question was clearly a favorite of those on the question-selection committee, as were several others that played to the bubba stereotype so beloved by cheap-shooters and cliche-mongers.

All together now: Republicans are only concerned about guns, gays and God. Oh, and race.

According to the Democratic playbook, forever emblazoned on the American psyche by Howard Dean back in his Confederate flag-waving days in the 2004 campaign, those are the issues that can get Republican hearts athumpin'. More to the point, those are the issues that get Democratic voters astumpin'.

To paraphrase the gun-totin' redneck, Democratic consultants will give up their "guns, gays and God" trope when someone pries their cold, puckered lips from the derrieres of those who must be pandered to.

Though there were some moments of substance and clarity sprinkled throughout the evening, the YouTube debates were beneath the dignity of the man or woman who would lead the free world.

One also wishes they were an insult to voters' intelligence.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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