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Save the Debate on CNN's Performance

Several months ago I was part of an effort to save the GOP YouTube debate. Many of the candidates were balking at the idea of taking questions from a talking snowman, but many of us in the online community believed that if the GOP did not engage in such forums we (conservatives) would fall even farther behind in the use of technology in politics. I am very glad the GOP candidates participated in the debate, but am disappointed (but not surprised) at the way CNN chose the questions and neglected to adequately vet or disclose information about the questioners. I agree with Jay Tea's excellent earlier post, especially in the point he makes about what the consequences should be. (Read his post here.)

Save the Debate has issued the following statement on CNN's performance:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 29, 2007

Save the Debate Coalition Statement on CNN's Flawed Editorial Process

"The Save the Debate coalition would like to thank the Republican candidates for participating in the YouTube debate, which reached an estimated 4.5 million Americans, a record for this primary cycle. We are hopeful that the candidates will consider future opportunities to use technology to reach new participants in the political process.

"Further, we applaud the YouTube community for the quality of the questions submitted that sparked informative and substantive exchanges among the Republican candidates. With nearly 5,000 YouTube user-submitted questions -- 2,000 more than for the Democratic debate -- Americans are increasingly taking advantage of the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

"Unfortunately, CNN's flawed editorial process in choosing the questions asked of the candidates marred an otherwise lively debate and betrayed the trust of the Republican candidates and the YouTube user community. In the most glaring example, a questioner affiliated with the Hillary Clinton campaign was given a soapbox to berate the Republican candidates at the debate -- when even a cursory web search of the individual would have revealed his clear conflict of interest.

"A YouTube debate should strive to minimize the media filter rather than highlight it. Instead the selection of questions for the Republican CNN/YouTube debate highlighted CNN's selection bias.

"We strongly encourage YouTube and other new media platforms to refrain from working with CNN on future debates."

The Save The Debate Coalition was founded earlier this year to help encourage Republican candidates to participate in the YouTube CNN Debate. Its co-founders include Patrick Ruffini of PatrickRuffini.com and Townhall.com, David All of TechRepublican.com, Soren Dayton of Redstate.com and EyeOn08.com, and Robert Bluey of RobertBluey.com and Redstate.com. For more information, visit www.savethedebate.com.

One final thought on this whole affair...Isn't it funny that Democrats whined and moaned and cried like little babies over the thought of facing Brit Hume in a Fox News debate? They talked about how Fox was biased and not legitimate enough to rate a presidential debate and they refused to participate in a debate on the channel. Meanwhile, Republican candidates appear on the network that gave us Eason Jordan's coverup of Saddam's atrocities, Tailwind and that horrible video of our troops being gunned down by snipers in Iraq. Here's the thing -- Republicans are used to getting crummy questions in debates and unfair treatment from journalists. Democrats get a tough question and think that is unfair treatment. If only they could walk a mile in George Bush's shoes, or in Dick Cheney's or pretty much any Republican politician's, then they would know what unfair treatment is. Or they could just look at the list of Democrat activists whose questions were chosen for the YouTube debate.

Update: No, Sarah, it wasn't just you and I agree about the flag question.


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Comments (22)

When are Republicans going ... (Below threshold)

When are Republicans going to stop playing the victim card? This "I'm being treated so unfair" shtick is getting old. Time to man-up boys. Would you like a little cheese with that whine?

Democrats are wimps. As Rus... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Democrats are wimps. As Rush has said: They believe in symbolism over substance. There ideas cannot stand up to scrutiny because democrats only know how to criticize not execute, plan, deliberate. Not all, but most. ww

A liberal telling republica... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

A liberal telling republicans to man up? Now that is funny. ww

[email protected]'s view seems to beli... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

[email protected]'s view seems to believe that Republicans should tolerate CNN's bias and incompetence because ... why? No answer and no response to the fact that it is the Democrats who provide the real contrast as whiners.

Ha! Whiners and victims? S... (Below threshold)

Ha! Whiners and victims? So what does that make Democrats for whining and complaining about Fox and not even being "man" enough to face Brit Hume? Give me a break. Are you seriously defending the way CNN just happened to choose questions from so many Dem activists and supporters of Dem candidates out of about 5,000 submitted? That doesn't even address the ridiculous "stars and bars" question and others that were chosen that are not exactly pressing issues in the GOP primary.

Clearly there are some very... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Clearly there are some very orchestrated aspects of these debates--but is anyone really all that surprised? Such forums have most often been little more than political posturing made to look like actual debate. It's TV for God's sake.

About the Democrat plants. So what? In my opinion the candidates should be able to stand up to such opposition and soapboxing--they're going to have to do that for years to come. If they can't handle some Edwards or Obama affiliate on a YouTube debate then how can they handle the office of the president?

At the same time, Democrats should be able to go on Fox debates (or anywhere else) and hold their own against whatever biased questions they may run into there. They should be able to stand up to the toughest (and most unfair) questions imaginable. The real world is full of agendas, biases, and all kinds of unfairness.

Political candidates are going to have to prove themselves in dealing with--you guessed it--politics. Any candidate who gets shut down by some "plant" from the other side isn't going to be able to handle all of the politicking that will ensue in the office of president. That's what I think.

The last thing I want to watch is Obama or Rudy fielding a bunch of softball questions. What good does that do?

So while I see the reason why many of you are irritated, I think that the candidates had better learn to deal with this kind of thing. Both sides.

Lorie:Ha! Whine... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Lorie:

Ha! Whiners and victims? So what does that make Democrats for whining and complaining about Fox and not even being "man" enough to face Brit Hume? Give me a break.

It's exactly the same kind of thing. I thought it was really weak of the Dems to avoid Fox like that. To me, it was an admission that they couldn't take the heat--and I wasn't very impressed with that. If candidates cannot deal with this kind of thing they're in trouble.

I give the Republican candi... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

I give the Republican candidates credit for facing CNN. But this post-debate complaining kinda takes away from that. I say deal with it, find ways around it, and move past it. Find ways to counter it instead of sitting around crying fowl. Those candidates should be able to cream some YouTube kid with a biased question.

ryan aThanks for j... (Below threshold)
epador:

ryan a

Thanks for joining in.

Geez, if that's the worst [best] CNN can do, they're seriously weakening. If you can't stand the heat in the primaries, whatcha gonna do once yur POTUS?

If Fox had done one, and ha... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

If Fox had done one, and had numerous imposter Republicans as questioners, you libs would be howling like banshees.

Give me an f'n break.

We don't whine; we call it like it is. Fairness is always demanded by Dims, unless it's about a Republican.

"Clearly there are some ... (Below threshold)

"Clearly there are some very orchestrated aspects of these debates--but is anyone really all that surprised?"

Not surprised - just sick of the manipulation or we wouldn't be discussing it now.

"About the Democrat plants. So what? In my opinion the candidates should be able to stand up to such opposition and soapboxing--they're going to have to do that for years to come."

I wouldn't say "so what" in regards to the democrat plants. Otherwise I agree, if we're going to see how they hold up under stress, let's do it to all of them. CNN is doing a grave disservice to the people by holding one side to a different standard.

"The last thing I want to watch is Obama or Rudy fielding a bunch of softball questions."

The last thing I want to watch is a group of people from whom I will make a choice for the office of President fielding nothing but hostile questions that achieve no more than to show who can be the most glib in 30 seconds.

"So while I see the reason why many of you are irritated, I think that the candidates had better learn to deal with this kind of thing. Both sides."

From what I can see, the Republican candidates ARE dealing with it. The Democrats AREN'T.

ryan a:About t... (Below threshold)
marc:

ryan a:

About the Democrat plants. So what? In my opinion the candidates should be able to stand up to such opposition and soapboxing--they're going to have to do that for years to come. If they can't handle some Edwards or Obama affiliate on a YouTube debate then how can they handle the office of the president?

Well, it would be "so what," if CNN had any pretense to be honest about the debate.

All the utube debates were billed by CNN as using a forum where every American had a chance to participate and possibly have their video question aired.

There is some validity to having only Reps ask the Reps and Dems only ask the Dems questions. After all who knows better what concerns a citizen has with regards to his Party and his candidates? And these ARE Party PRIMARY debates not general election debates.

However, when CNN allows a retired Brig. Gen that not only has appeared on the network in the past but is so easily unmasked as part of the Hillary campaign AND flys him to the debate site on their dime THEN allows him live on-air time to rebut the answers given to his video it calls into question the validity of the entire debate structure and purpose.

As for the rest of the "plants," why were they even labeled as "undecided Reps" if not to deceive? Either use no labels or do their job of vetting more professionally and label them correctly.

Update to the preceding com... (Below threshold)
marc:

Update to the preceding comment: Apparently CNN didn't pay for the Brig Gens transportation and lodging while attending the debate, Google did.

But that doesn't change the fact CNN should have easily discovered his ties to Clinton given his history with the network.

And oh, is it "shocking" that Google would be footing the Gens bill? Not hardly considering how poorly they vet and parse who and who they don't use as sources for Google News.

Personally, I don't think t... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Personally, I don't think the candidates should be too pissed off.
If they didn't expect CNN to pull this kind of BS by now, they should get out of the race. This is hardly new behaivor.

However the public, the viewers, they are the ones I think were lied to. The debate is a public forum for the voters to assess the candidates. If they are told that the questions came from average joes, picked more or less randomly when in fact they were loaded with partisan shills, they are being misled. Rather (no pun intendend) like putting an explosive on a Ford's gas tank to "illustrate" that a collision could cause an explosion.

The way I see it what makes this round of plants worse than when it happened at the Dem debate, is NOT the party affiliation of the plants, it is that CNN did it AGAIN after having been caught red handed.

If there is nothing wrong with plants, why does CNN go to lengths to hide it?

[email protected]:W... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

[email protected]:

When are Republicans going to stop playing the victim card? This "I'm being treated so unfair" shtick is getting old. Time to man-up boys. Would you like a little cheese with that whine?

If find that funny considering the Democratic candidates ran in terror from a FoxNews televised debate.

CNN here does in reality exactly the kind of thing your delusional echo chambers probably were expecting FoxNews would do, yet CNN is A.O.K.

Oyster:Not surp... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Oyster:

Not surprised - just sick of the manipulation or we wouldn't be discussing it now.

I hear you. Maybe I'm just too damn cynical about these kinds of debates. No matter how "fair' they try to present them, by using YouTube and all that, I have a hard time seeing them as much more than highly manipulated and staged events. A lot of people spend a lot of money on these things, both Dems and Repubs.

I wouldn't say "so what" in regards to the democrat plants. Otherwise I agree, if we're going to see how they hold up under stress, let's do it to all of them. CNN is doing a grave disservice to the people by holding one side to a different standard.

I completely understand your position regarding CNN. But then, I don't really place all that much value on any one news network, as they all have their interests--no matter how objective they go around proclaiming to be. The problem is when Americans expect to get "the truth" from one source. Not gonna happen. We all need to implement the BS filter, and weigh the different strands of information we get from various sources.

The last thing I want to watch is a group of people from whom I will make a choice for the office of President fielding nothing but hostile questions that achieve no more than to show who can be the most glib in 30 seconds.

Agreed. The whole format of these debates pretty much eliminates the possibility of any real explanations or dialog. It's politics crammed into Jeopardy, where candidates are supposed to say something substantive in 30 second spot, just before Budweiser commercials. It's a lot of nonsense, and that's why I can't stand watching them.

I wish it was more of a roundtable discussion where the candidates were actually allowed to argue and debate, as opposed to answering a bunch of superficial questions. Maybe if we all dedicated as much interest and time to politics as we do to football we could get somewhere. But that won't happen...

From what I can see, the Republican candidates ARE dealing with it. The Democrats AREN'T.

Ya, I know what you're saying. The Dems do get pretty damn whiny. Personally, I'm not really excited or impressed by ANY of them (Repub or Dem) to be honest. The days of the Jeffersons and Hamiltons are LONG gone.

marc:Well, it w... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

marc:

Well, it would be "so what," if CNN had any pretense to be honest about the debate.

CNN is what it is. We all have to be vigilant about the ways that we place value and trust in such sources. Remember, they do pander to audiences, and they are supported by advertisements, just like any other "news" source.

All the utube debates were billed by CNN as using a forum where every American had a chance to participate and possibly have their video question aired.

Well, news networks and politicians bill all kinds of things as fair, objective, and trustworthy...it's our job to evaluate how good of a job they do. This is about being responsible consumers of information--we can't just go around believing everything that CNN, Fox, MSNBC, or CBS tells us, can we?

However, when CNN allows a retired Brig. Gen that not only has appeared on the network in the past but is so easily unmasked as part of the Hillary campaign AND flys him to the debate site on their dime THEN allows him live on-air time to rebut the answers given to his video it calls into question the validity of the entire debate structure and purpose.

Yes, it does call the validity into question. And hopefully many Americans are able to see through this kind of thing. Both sides of the spectrum need to be wary of this crap.

I guess I wrote "so what" because this stuff just doesn't surprise me at all. It's pretty much business as usual, with a few new details. These "debates" have been little more than BS media events for a long time, IMO. But that doesn't mean we can't change them.

Anyway, I do think it's good for people to be skeptical about all this.

SCIwuzzy:Howeve... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

SCIwuzzy:

However the public, the viewers, they are the ones I think were lied to. The debate is a public forum for the voters to assess the candidates. If they are told that the questions came from average joes, picked more or less randomly when in fact they were loaded with partisan shills, they are being misled.

And this is new? The debate is sold as some kind of public forum, but in reality what is it? An event where millions of dollars are spent so that we can hear Clinton and McCain give trite 30 second answers to serious political and social issues. How useful or informative is that? It's the fast food mentality applied to politics.

The public is allowing itself to be misled by letting major media sources tell them what is and what is not "true." We can't all just sit back and pretend that we can pick presidents in a two hour time slot before the next reality show. It might take a little more thought and involvement than that.

The last thing we should all do is believe every word that CNN or any other network tells us. None of them are as objective as they keep pretending to be, and the American public is foolish to believe otherwise.

This applies to all sides of the political spectrum.

Republicans face tough ques... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Republicans face tough questions and complain about bias.

Democrats run scared from questions and complain about bias.


I guess that makes it very easy to decide which party to vote for, huh?

Letting a bunch of losers a... (Below threshold)
Dave W:

Letting a bunch of losers ask questions via video on CNN degrades the office of president. These people are persuing a serious office and a serious job. CNN is to be expected to be biased. I guarantee they had a list of topics/questions they wanted asked, and i'm sure they had enough applicants that they just picked and chose the questions based on their list. Whatever questions they didn't have, they just got democrat staffers to ask.

Typical idiot liberal garbage. No one learned anything new from this debate about the candidates. CNN just confirmed once again what literal trash they are and how big of hacks they are.

I have to agree with Dave.<... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

I have to agree with Dave.

This was a sort of a loser, youtube geek, forum.

It would be nice to elevate the thinking, but we are now a bubetube nation. So--

"Boxers or Briefs?" Duh, doh.

My question is this:<... (Below threshold)

My question is this:

Since the Save the Debate Coalition pushed the Republican candidates into this YouTube debate even though they had what seems like ample reason to believe that this debate would be amateur hour at best, why should Save the Debate be listened to in the future?


And don't the GOP candidates who were skeptical of the YouTube debate deserve an apology, or at least an admission that they may have been right and the Coalition wrong?




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