I was feeling tired, so I slept through the Republican debate last night. And it sounds like I missed a humdinger.
But as is so often the case, the really interesting stuff was the behind-the-scenes dirt.
As Kevin pointed out, it turns out that one of the questioners -- retired General Keith Kerr -- is a Hillary Clinton advisor. And others have been doing some digging, and have found that three other questioners also have ties to Democratic candidates. Michelle Malkin has a good roundup of the plants: the abortion questioner is a proud John Edwards supporter, the Log Cabin Republican is backing Barack Obama, the lead-in-toys mom is an aide to a prominent union leader and John Edwards supporter, and the aforementioned General Kerr also helped John Kerry back in 2004.
Amazingly, a few people in pajamas managed to uncover all these connections within an hour or two, but CNN -- with all its resources and fact-checkers and editors and reporters -- either didn't find that out or didn't think it relevant.
But remarkably enough, CNN did have the time and resources to dig up a 13-year-old quote from Mitt Romney where he supported gays in the military and toss that back at him after General Kerr asked his question. They also managed to bring General Kerr to the debate to ask a followup question.
I believe Scott Adams phrased it best: "constructive incompetence." Or, perhaps, "convenient ineptitude."
A few weeks ago, during the most recent Democratic debate, it was uncovered that a lot of the questioners CNN picked had were Democratic party officials and apparatchiks. The justification at the time was "oops -- we didn't know!" and "well, it's for the Democratic primary, so of course it's going to be a lot of Democrats asking the questions."
Now that lightning has struck twice at CNN and we have a new slate of Democratic appartchiks and activists asking questions of Republicans, the new narrative seems to be "well, they were valid questions, so it really doesn't matter who asked them."
This raises the interesting question: if who asked the questions is irrelevant, then why didn't the gay general ask about lead in toys, while the mom with her kids ask about gays in the military? The honest answer is, of course, that this is a case of "identity politics" -- in many cases, who is saying something is just as important -- if not more important -- than the actual statement.
The irony here is that the argument is correct. Those were good, solid questions. But CNN, by playing by completely contradictory standards for its questioners at debates, betrays its bias: the Democrats get to stack their questions to make their candidates look good; the Republicans find themselves having to squirm and evade, or give concrete answers that won't make some people very happy.
And the greater irony is that, in the long run, CNN isn't doing the Democrats any favors. By protecting them from the same kind of rigorous questioning that they inflicted on the Republicans, they set them up for failure when CNN can't control things as rigorously. On the other hand, the Republicans have already been tested, and know what sorts of things to expect.
Well done, Clinton News Network.
(Title shamelessly stolen from WKRP In Cincinnati)