Sex, Lies and Innuendo at CNBC (Well, Without the Sex)

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

Somewhere in the middle of what was supposed to pass as an issues debate amongst the Republican presidential primary contestants on CNBC, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) famously responded to yet another sarcastic question by one of the CNBC newsreaders (it really doesn’t make any difference which one because they were all basically Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest):

“You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media.”

The questions were juvenile at best and contemptuous at worst. Few were asked to elicit information or clarify issues. Rather the questions were asked, for the most part, to demonstrate the low esteem in which the media elites hold anybody Republican and particularly anybody conservative. For the most part the mainstream media have abandoned any pretext of impartiality and have, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) noted, become a SuperPAC for the Democrat Party.

Okay, I get that – in fact I’ve gotten that for the past twenty years and watched as it has migrated from mildly annoying to crude and littered with fabrications. Allen Drury used a fictitious pompous, overbearing and noblesse oblige liberal journalist in a series of novels beginning with Advise and Consent (circa 1959) that satirized a composite Walter Lippman and Walter Cronkite. This fictitious “Wonderful Walter” was given to populating his opinions as facts by noting “that all the right thinking people agree.” This elitism has carried over into liberal candidates who insist that they are the smartest, best educated, and thoughtful people on the planet – even when, like President Barack Obama – the smartest of the smart – consistently demonstrates that their insights, ideas and implementation exist only in the fanciful world of academia and prove disastrous when tested in the real world.

But this liberal media bias has shifted from the sniffing disdain for those who disagree to half-truths, innuendoes and outright lies. Perhaps the most famous of these was the assertion by CBS anchor Dan Rather that President George W. Bush used his father’s influence to duck combat service despite having in hand information that debunked virtually everything that his so-called “source” had alleged. So egregious was Mr. Rather’s departure from the truth that he lost his job at CBS. And even as liberal Hollywood actor Robert Redford attempts to re-write history, CBS has stepped forward to debunk virtually everything in the fanciful Truth.

This insistent habit of parsing words, taking statements out of context, inferring general purpose from anecdotal instances, and utilizing “loaded questions” (i.e. “when did you stop beating your wife”) are now the mainstay of liberal journalists who are too dumb or too lazy (or both) to engage in an intelligent conversation about anything of substance. (Unfortunately, it is the same habit that has been adopted by politicians – Democrats and Republicans alike – doing “opposition research” and is used primarily in political advertising when the victim has no opportunity to respond.) Add to this the annoying habit of the CNBC moderators dismissively cutting off answers – particularly those of Carly Fiorina – and you get to see a liberal media in a juggernaut of bias and disinformation.

But the only thing worse is the whining of staffs from several of the Republican presidential candidates who want to “redraw” the rules for these debates. (It is reminiscent of the annual meeting of our golf club when someone stands up to demand that the “rules” be changed – it is seldom about fairness and always about whether the complainer is winning enough.)

In the first instance what genius at the Republican National Committee (RNC) believed that giving CNBC carte blanche in determining the format, the moderators and the time limits would result in anything other than what occurred? There are a multitude of media outlets vying for these debates, now including web-based outlets which can generate the same level of audience participation as the mainstream media. Anybody but the RNC could have chosen a more neutral forum. That neutrality is best afforded by pairing sponsors from the left and right and thus ensuring that the biases of each will be offset by the other.

But even if you cannot achieve a more neutral forum, man up for God’s sake. The fact of the matter is that the CNBC debate was great fun when several of the candidates (those with cajones, including Ms. Fiorina) took on the moderators. There was Dr. Ben Carson who repeatedly, and patiently, corrected the moderators who sought to paint him as homophobic by misquoting his statements. There was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who repeatedly refused to be drawn into criticizing his opponents. There was Donald Trump who braced up the worst of the lot, John Harwood (D-CNBC) about whether the debate was originally scheduled for three hours. And Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) who famously shut down Mr. Harwood who was interrupting his answers by stating:

“No, John, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer? Because — I got to tell you the truth, even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.” But all of these paled in comparison to Ms. Fiorina’s chastising the far left moderator, Chris Matthews (D-MSNBC) for trying to put words into her mouth:

“Well, first I was very specific about the subjects about which I think she has lied. I didn’t say she lied about everything. I was very specific. Very fact-based, actually. You are the one who’s made a generalized comment now about her. Not me.”And Ms. Fiorina dusted back an interviewer from GQ who attempted to falsely accuse her of criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As noted in the November 3, 2015, edition of Newsmax:

“In the GQ interview, Fiorina also defended her sharp criticisms of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, rebuking the GQ interviewer for saying she called Clinton’s character ‘flawed.’ 
“’Your words, not mine,’ she scolded.”
You see, in these brief exchanges between smart, informed candidates and a cadre of inept reporters and newsreaders, the audience was well-informed as to the character and bias of the media as well as the mental toughness of the candidates. Refusing to being drawn into false statements, guilt by innuendo, and mischaracterizations is in large part a predictor of future conduct when confronted by other liars, cheats and villains on the international stage. It is both liberating and informative to stand up to your would be accusers.

The best press interview I ever had took place with a reporter for the Oregonian on the phone while I was in Pendleton. Before the reporter had gathered a single fact, he had developed a conspiracy narrative about a column I had written about the public employees unions. The article had appeared in my weekly column in the Medford MailTribune under my byline. Subsequently it appeared at OregonCatalyst without attribution, and finally, unbeknownst to me, in the Bend Bulletin as a letter to the editor signed by a friend of mine who used to work for me. The Oregonian reporter was sure that there was a conspiracy and that the column actually originated elsewhere – presumably from some secretive conservative group. When I disabused him of the conspiracy and then the fact that I was not offended that someone, particularly someone I knew and trusted, adopted my words as his own, his story fell apart. But he still needed a story and so he moved on to a convoluted question about my views of the public employee unions which was filled with innuendo, false assumptions and a general lack of any real knowledge of the subject. When he finished I responded:

“That’s the dumbest [effing] question I have ever heard and I’m not going to answer it.” He protested that he needed something to write as a response. And I told him that he had it and that I expected that he would quote me verbatim. That was the end of the interview and the story.

So, to the Republican presidential candidates – man up.  Start holding those accountable who are pretending to hold you accountable. You’ll feel better about yourself, and so will your audience.