In many of these MSM-moderated debates, liberal moderators have tried to stir up personal fights between candidates, which diverts our focus from more important issues and, before national television audiences, shifts attention far away from Barack Obama and his disastrous agenda.
Yes, these are debates among Republicans and designed to bring out distinctions among the candidates, but it should be up to the candidates to initiate and define those distinctions, and it is improper for the moderators to continually steer the debate away from substance and into the personal. With the moderators constantly stirring up catfights, liberal ends are served, both in placing Republican candidates in the worst light and in creating the illusion that their primary differences are with one another rather than Obama.
If you doubt this, then ask yourself how often in Saturday night's debate the candidates were given an opportunity -- instead of showing how corrupt, immoral or inexperienced their GOP rivals are -- to distinguish their policy proposals from the others in the context of the Obama record. The narrative in these debates ought to be how each of the candidates is better-equipped than the others to reverse Obama's agenda.
In addition to misdirecting the debates substantively, the liberal moderators have also, too often, injected themselves into the debates as if they were either driven by their irrepressible egos to make themselves players rather than facilitators or so ideologically revolted by the GOP's policies that they were compelled to argue Obama's side in his absence. The moderators shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. If they are going to direct the debate solely toward differences among the GOP candidates, they shouldn't present Obama's side for him, giving him and the liberal position a free ride.
As for stirring up personal and nasty issues, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Rep. Ron Paul whether he would stand by charges in one of his South Carolina ads that former Sen. Rick Santorum is "corrupt -- a corporate lobbyist, a Washington insider with a record of betrayal." As if to ensure Paul wouldn't sidestep the corruptness charge, Stephanopoulos repeated, "You also call him corrupt in that ad."
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.