Tuesday, November 10, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Can’t stand heat, blame the media

I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”

— Harry S. Truman

Mike Huckabee and Gov. Chris Christie found themselves relegated to the undercard at last night’s Republican debate on Fox Business News, dealing a blow to their campaigns. Don’t be surprised if both candidates drop out before the end of the month.

Republicans who thought last month’s CNBC debate was biased shouldn’t have expected an easy pass in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. Fox journalists may wear kid gloves when they interview Republican hopefuls, but the panel chosen for the debates even on Fox have shown an admirable toughness toward the candidates.

The questions were no worse than what were lobbed at them on Fox News. The candidates have now taken control of the debates from the Republican National Committee, which negotiated the terms with broadcasters, who have lobbed tough questions that have often exposed the candidates’ weaknesses.

Several candidates have submitted their demands to the networks for less confrontational debates, but even Fox couldn’t agree to them. If the candidates expected less hostile questions from Fox Business anchors Maria Bartiromo and Neil Cavuto at Tuesday’s debate, Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker, a seasoned journalist with a solid reputation, showed them he’s nobody’s fool. Both Fox and the Wall Street Journal are owned by News Corp.

To be sure, Bartiromo has participated in Clinton Foundation events, but so has the Murdoch family, who controls Fox. If the Republican candidates think that shows a left-wing bias, they should organize their own debates funded by the Koch brothers.

The CNBC moderators were perhaps less prepared, but they asked some pretty good questions, except for the softball opener about the candidates’ weaknesses (which none of them answered). Compare that to what CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Hillary Clinton at the start of the first Democratic debate: “Will you say anything to get elected?”

If Huckabee thought the questions were often snarky, let’s hope he gets more of them should he stay in the race.

The candidates should stop complaining and take questions even from the most hostile interviewers. Invite Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-il. Let’s see how the candidates handle those two villains. We should find out who is best prepared for the toughest job in the world.

If you want to be the heavyweight champion of the world, it’s not enough to get in the ring with Muhammad Ali and then duck. Come out swinging, or don’t bother asking the American people to elect you.

“I’m happy to take questions from a Democrat, a Republican, an independent,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said. “I’m even happy to take questions from a socialist.” Good for him. The presidency is not for wimps.

“If you can’t handle that stage, you’ve got no chance of handling Hillary Clinton,” said Gov. Chris Christie. “I’m not one of these whiners and complainers. Any debate they put on, I’ll show up cause I’ll do just fine.”

But, as their poll numbers sank, Huckabee and Christie realized weeks ago they wouldn’t qualify for the main debate on Fox Business Network.

“I have enough humility to know I gotta get better,” said Bush after his poor performance.He has a lot to be humble about, but at least he didn’t blame his shortcomings on the moderators.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who complained the loudest about the slanted questions in the earlier debates, accuses the Democratic candidates of sounding like the Bolsheviks (Soviet communists) and the Mensheviks (Russian social democrats).

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which faction he belongs to: “The truth of the matter is, big government benefits the wealthy, it benefits the lobbyists, it benefits the giant corporations,” Cruz said during the CNBC debate. “And the people who are getting hammered are small businesses; it’s single moms; it’s Hispanics.”

This from a politician who is married to a regional manager of Goldman Sachs, which shares some of the blame for rising inequality in our country.

The debates could break up as the candidates fight among themselves and with the Republican National Committee over the rules. Donald Trump, who flopped on “Saturday Night Live,” still wants to boycott Telemundo, the Spanish-language channel the Republican National Committee is punishing for the CNBC debacle. They’re both owned by NBC-Universal. Most of the other candidates think dumping Telemundo will only further alienate Hispanic voters.

Is it too late to get Mitt Romney in the race?