Fox News Needs a Chill Pill before Thursday's Debate

There comes a point -- and we are long past it -- when one media outlet shouldn't be able to control the fortunes of one political party the way Fox News does the Republicans.  For that alone, we should thank Donald Trump for demurring to participate in Fox's final Iowa debate Thursday night.

The spectacle of Bill O'Reilly fairly "begging" Trump, as Drudge put it, to appear was almost embarrassing to watch. (Hasn't Bill learned by now that Donald -- like Tom Petty -- "won't back down"?) And enough about Megyn Kelly, whose metastasizing ego is starting to make her resemble a cable news version of the ambitious Eve Harrington in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve.

When Kelly wrapped her show Wednesday night, winking at the audience and assuring us that they (the debate panel) would be asking "tough questions" of the candidates, I wondered to what end?  "Tough," usually meaning "trick,"questions may make for entertaining sound bites, but do they really tell us anything at all about how someone would fare or act as president? Not often.

Exactly how many times do we want to see Cruz and Rubio bickering over who said what about immigration? Both of these guys are obviously smart and good debaters, but what does that actually mean in terms of what a president actually does... unless we want to ship them over to the Oxford Union to take on a team of Brits? Wouldn't it be better to, um,  read an article about their various policies that would tell us so much more, assuming that we really do want to know more and don't just base our opinions on gut likes and dislikes (something, I'm willing to wager, more people do than would admit). And that latter, instinctive preference may actually be more valuable since, whatever the sturm und drang, the differences between the Republican candidates are minuscule compared to the differences between them and the Democrats.

Nevertheless, the debate show must go on.  But someone ought to remind Kelly, et al. that this election is not about Fox and its performer-hosts.  It's about the candidates and the American people. For 2016, the medium (or the media company) is way too much the message.