This really is a women’s issue, and the Obama campaign should be hitting it harder:
Oh, boo hoo. My concern is not that Candy Crowley will be unfair to the candidates, but to the viewers. I’m concerned that she will either work to soften the questions (because when have you ever seen her conduct a truly interesting interview?) — or that she will simply spit out the same fact-free conventional wisdom as Martha Raddatz did re: Social Security and Medicare, or Iran:.
In a rare show of unity, both the Obama and Romney campaigns have complained to the Commission on Presidential Debates about CNN’s Candy Crowley, who will moderate Tuesday’s town hall forum.
The reason, according to Time’s Mark Halperin, is that Crowley has publicly said that she intends to play an active role in the debate, rather than just let the audience at the town hall ask questions.
Time’s Halperin got his hands on the secret debate contract — or “Memorandum of Understanding” — hammered out by the two campaigns for every debate. Many groups have long demanded for these contracts to be made public as a matter of routine, but the Commission and the campaigns have resisted.
According to Halperin, the MOU, which he said Crowley is “not party to,” calls for the moderator to play a relatively limited role in the town-hall debate:
“In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.”
This does not dovetail in the least with Crowley’s public statements about her intentions. She discussed what she feels her role will be in detail with The Huffington Post last week:
I want to hear less from the moderator than I do from the candidate. I think that, in some ways, people go into it expecting that you’re going to mix it up with the candidates. And I’m not saying that at some point that won’t happen or that that doesn’t happen. I’m just saying that the idea is to get the candidates to mix it up with each other.
Huffington Post: So you see your ultimate role as being there to facilitate their conversation with each other?
Crowley: I think that’s one of the roles. The expectations are enormous from people. My inbox is filled with questions from people. You’re going to disappoint people, so I think the idea is to try to add to the body of knowledge that is out there in whatever way you can. I think it’s always best when these guys engage with each other, but that doesn’t mean I won’t engage with them if that gets us closer to what we need.
I remember Joe Bageant talking about how people who worked at the factory were exposed to conservative talk radio and the instructions from their boss about who to vote for. He said a lot of them assumed that since the owner was rich, he must know what he was talking about.
So the question we should think about is, are we going to let them get away with it again?
The corporate honchos are not expecting to convince the public that we should support cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They know this is a hopeless task. Huge majorities of people across the political spectrum strongly support these programs.
Instead, they hope that they can use their power of persuasion, coupled with the power of campaign contributions and the power of high-paying jobs for defeated members of Congress, to get Congress to approve large cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other key programs. This is the plan for a grand bargain that the corporate chieftains hope can be struck in the lame-duck Congress.
Most of the media have been happy to cooperate with the corporate chieftains in this plan. There are two main ways in which they have abandoned objectivity to support the plan for cutting Social Security and Medicare.
First, they continually run stories about how the deficit and debt are the biggest problems facing the country. They routinely use phrases like “crisis” and other hyperboles to scare their audience about the risks that the debt poses to the country.
The whole notion of a “fiscal cliff” is an invention that implies an urgency that does not exist. There is almost no consequence to not having a deal in place by the end of 2012. The dire projections of recession and rising unemployment assume that we don’t ever get a deal on the budget.
The fixation on the debt certainly cannot be justified by any objective standard. Clearly the most pressing economic problem facing the country is that tens of millions of people are unemployed or underemployed as result of the collapse of the housing bubble. These people and their families are seeing their lives ruined due to a monumental failure by policymakers.
Furthermore, it is easy to show that the large budget deficits of recent years are entirely the result of the economic collapse. If the economy were back near full employment, the deficits would be relatively small, as was the case before the collapse. Yet, it is the deficits and debt that dominate news reporting and debate questions, not the overall state of the economy.
The other way in which the media have been pushing the agenda of the corporate honchos is by refusing to press candidates on their support for the cuts to Social Security that are a likely part of a grand bargain. Does President Obama support reducing Social Security benefits by 3 percent by cutting the annual cost-of-living adjustment? Does he support raising the age of Medicare eligibility to 67? How about your candidates for the Senate or the House?
It’s unlikely that many people know the answers to these questions, because the reporters have not been asking them. Yet, these policies and other cuts that would likely be part of a grand bargain would have a much more direct impact on most people’s lives that the tax proposals being touted by President Obama and Governor Romney.
To be specific, the reduction in Social Security benefits from the cut in the cost-of-living adjustment that is being pushed as part of a grand bargain would have more impact on most future retirees’ living standards than ending the Bush tax cuts on the richest 2 percent would have on their living standards. While the media have done endless pieces on the impact of this possible tax increase on the wealthy, they have done almost nothing on the impact on retirees’ living standards if the cost-of-living adjustment is cut.
This, of course, fits the needs of the corporate honchos who are pushing the agenda for cutting Social Security and Medicare. They don’t want these cuts to become an issue before the election because it will make it harder for members of Congress to vote for them.
This is why the reporters covering this election deserve nothing but contempt from the public. It is their job to highlight the issues that will matter to people’s lives, not to help push the agenda of corporate America. But clearly they have decided to do the latter.
George McGovern, of who Hunter Thompson once wrote:
“Of all the men that have run for president in the twentieth century, only George McGovern truly understood what a monument America could be to the human race.”