“CNN Hopes to Capture Candidates’ Combative Spirit in GOP Debate”
The New York Times trumpets CNN’s bear-baiting plan. Rather than allow time for the candidates to explain their positions and extol their records during the brief time snippets they’ll get in tonight’s Republican presidential debate, moderator Jake Tapper says:
My goal is more about: Let’s draw the contrasts between the candidates, and have them fight it out over these policies…
Tapper gushes over the donnybrook between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul (KY) during the recent Fox News debate.
He described the feisty back-and-forth as “electric” and “illuminating,” saying he hoped to create as many of those moments as possible.
Bear-baiting once meant literally tying a bear to a pole in an arena and allowing dogs to attack it. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I reportedly reveled in the fear-soaked feral combat. A spectacle observer in 1575 recorded this account of the sport.
“…with fending & proving, with plucking and tugging, scratching and biting, by plain tooth and nail on one side and the other, such expense of blood and leather was there between them, as a month’s licking (I think) will not recover…”
— Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth Castle
Bear-baiting is not done for the good of the bear, nor for the benefit of the dogs, but merely to satisfy the bloodlust of the howling simians in the stands — they who sit safe from danger while urging attack by those whose very lives are at stake.
Of course, it’s much more entertaining to conduct a candidate debate that way. After all, what is a political journalist but a ticket scalper at a cockfight?
If the candidates succumb and take the bait, the air in the arena will fill with the sickly-sweet stench of irony. How many 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls will stand under the very wing of Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One and violate his famous 11th commandment?
“Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”
“But… but… the ratings,” you say. “Without all of the pecking that goes into establishing a pecking order, viewers will tune out. They’re not interested in dusty talk of policy, legislation and the Constitution. They don’t believe any of it anyway. So why not let them fight?”
Back in 2004, comedian and “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart appeared on CNN’s “Crossfire” with Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala and rebuked the pair for a show he called “painful to watch.”
STEWART: You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably. When you have people on for this knee-jerk, reactionary talk…
CARLSON [interrupts]: Wait, I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.
STEWART: No. No. I’m not going to be your monkey.
Carlson, hunting for a ratings bump, was crestfallen that Stewart didn’t bring his schtick, but instead wielded a switch for taking them to the woodshed.
At tonight’s CNN Republican presidential debate, the candidates should give instigator Jake Tapper a dram of ole Stewart: “I’m not going to be your pit bull.”
They should follow that shot of Stewart with a chaser of Carly Fiorina.
Each time a CNN instigator, whip in hand, urges a dog to bite the bear or the bear to swipe at a dog, the candidates should do what Fiorina did when Donald Trump denigrated her looks in Rolling Stone with his now-famous “look at that face” remark.
Attention candidates: Watch the video on the next page and learn how to turn an insult into strength and inspiration. By the way, the average video on the “Carly for America” YouTube channel has a few hundred views. This one, after just one day, has been seen 367,448 times.
Oh, and a note to Jake Tapper: If, as you say, you want a Lincoln-Douglas kind of debate, here are the ground rules.
- Candidate A speaks for 60 minutes, then Candidate B for 90 minutes, followed by Candidate A’s 30 minute rejoinder.
- No moderators.