THE MEDIA, MICKEY MOUSE, AND GOTCHA
The second Republican debate, which occurred on August 11, 2011, was not especially notable in my opinion. But there was one exception. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reprimanded Fox News commentator Chris Wallace for playing "Mickey Mouse games" and for asking inconsequential "gotcha" questions. I side squarely with Gingrich on the point.
My friends, we are drowning. "How high's the water, Mama?" is not merely a colorful song lyric? Our President is ineffective, clueless, and reminiscent of James Buchanan in the level of incompetence he brings to the job. There is rioting in the Western world – not only in London, but also in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. A sense of civil unrest is growing in intensity as the economic outlook throughout the country is becoming increasingly dire. Life savings are disintegrating. Unemployment is rampant. And wouldn't you know that Congress is on vacation with the well wishes of our President? They are all content to leave whatever hard budgetary decisions which exist to the twelve-person commission appointed to do what they cannot do in their dysfunction. In addition to these formidable domestic concerns, there is the ever-present threat of worldwide terrorism.
Against this foreboding backdrop, Wallace asked Gingrich about his faltering campaign. What was that, a faltering campaign? As we all know, the former Speaker's national and Iowa campaign staffs quit because they thought he was an undisciplined campaigner and fundraiser. So what? Who cares? Because of biased and negative news coverage, the candidate's also reportedly amassed a million dollar campaign debt thus far. Big deal! That's a pittance in political terms. Yet to paraphrase Wallace's question: "How do you respond, Mr. Speaker, to those who say that your campaign has been a mess?"
To his credit, Gingrich pointed out to Wallace that others, like Ronald Reagan and John McCain, when they were running for the same office, experienced a mass exodus of campaign workers, that the matter was insignificant, and that he was determined to run on ideas. He admonished Wallace to ask questions pertinent to the vital issues facing America.
Hurray for Newt! I respect the man for his spunk as well as for his factual, articulate response to a largely irrelevant question. I continue to find Gingrich's ideas vibrant and well worth considering and his experience demonstrative of an uncommon depth of practical insight and understanding. I don't care what the silly pundits say. Of all the Republican candidates out there, Gingrich is by far the most experienced and the most brilliant.
My positive overall impression of the Speaker has never really been a secret. Still, I must admit that his campaign has not yet caught fire and is not likely to do so. I hear him called all sorts of bad names and described more often than not in a pejorative way. I don't understand the underlying reasons for the animus against the man, although I know they are there.
Could it be that he is the object of extreme hostility because he resigned the Speaker's chair under a cloud of ethical violations? Or that he has been married multiple times? Or that he's a woebegone hypocrite, and a portly one at that? To each of these criticisms, I respond, "Come on! Enough!"
Does anyone seriously believe that a successful Washington politician is, or ever has been, a saint? Or that an amateur is what we need in the Oval Office? Gingrich is neither Mary Poppins nor Mother Teresa, but rather a dirty political in-fighter, who knows the Washington game like the back of his hand, and who is able to recognize sound policy and to translate it into reality. I want, after all, to vote for the man, not to marry him or to have him serve as my priest.
But back to the questions asked in this debate. They were, for lack of a better term, sophomoric. One might expect questions of this caliber to be formulated in a college frat house. Consider, for example, Byron York's question to Michele Bachmann concerning whether she would be "submissive" to her husband if she were elected President. It was ludicrous and insulting, not only to Bachmann but also to thoughtful people viewing the debate. One can listen to the feisty, head-strong Minnesotan for fifteen minutes and realize that, although "submissive" may be a term in her vocabulary, it is not a response she will ever utilize in dealing with leftist policy proponents.
Reflecting the same lightweight journalism, a question was asked of Herman Cain about a comment he once made concerning illegal immigration. In response to President Obama's remarks regarding policing the US-Mexico border, Cain specifically stated that, in order to impede illegals from entering the country, he would erect an electrified fence twenty feet above a moat filled with alligators. The businessman-turned-politician pointed out that his comment was intended as a joke. Well, of course! I laughed when I heard it. Didn't you?
I'm sick and tired of stupid questions from media personalities! I don't understand what entitles them to be front and center at major political events anyway. Is it because they speak without a stutter? Or because they have "star quality"? Or because they are trained to be in the public eye behind a microphone? I don't get it! If political events in this country are to highlight substance, then the wrong people are asking the questions. I am not interested in having either Chris Wallace or Byron York, or any of their colleagues (with few exceptions), attempt to inform me about any subject. Are you?
Here's a suggestion: Why not raise the level of public discourse by bringing in professional businessmen and economists, skilled political analysts, foreign policy specialists, and those with military expertise, to ask the questions? I'm not talking about intellectuals who have lived their entire lives in an academic bubble. No, I'm referring to people who, while they have intensively studied a subject, also have a universe of practical experience from which to draw when discussing it.
A brief side note. As a twelve-year old boy, I remember watching one Sunday evening Chris Wallace's father, Mike Wallace, interview a major league baseball legend, Bob Feller. Although Feller could hurl a blazing fast ball, his mind was not blessed with the same celerity. I remember feeling embarrassed each time Wallace caught him in an artful trap. Bob Feller took a royal drubbing that evening! A week or so thereafter, I tuned in while Wallace interviewed another person, a physically diminutive man of whom I'd not heard. His attire and mannerisms were altogether strange to me. That's because he was an American original. His name was Frank Lloyd Wright, at left. He turned Mike Wallace every way but loose. That was when I discovered the difference between form and substance. Chris Wallace is a chip off the old block. He is far more adept in form than in substance. This fact was starkly demonstrated last Thursday evening.
So, with all due respect, why don't Roger Ailes and other television moguls take a lesson from the last two Republican debates, both of which highlighted the inane? Why don't these CEOs do the country a favor and resolve to elevate the level of public conversation in American political life? What would be wrong with inviting widely respected authorities in their own fields to question the candidates and, then, to have ample time devoted to give and take between them all? Perhaps we, as a nation, could then begin to think outside the box – or, better yet, begin to think . . . rather than to be lulled asleep by Hollywood-style nonsense.
August 14, 2011