I don’t remember when I’ve quoted anything from the LA Times that I agreed with. That’s how often it happens. Their take on last week’s CNN/youTube debate however is both unique and right on. In defense of CNN’s use of democrat operatives and members of the Clinton campaign, CNN put out this statement the next day . . .
“The whole point of these ground-breaking CNN/YouTube debates is to focus on substantive questions of concern to real people and to throw open the process to a wider range of Americans all around the country. CNN cared about what you asked, not who you were.”
CNN did not do either. The first and most obvious bit of journalistic malpractice is the selection of Democrat campaign operatives like Keith Kerr to hold the microphone in a Republican debate. The next thing, and maybe less obvious is they didn’t focus on the most important issues on the minds of Americans. They focused instead on what was important to CNN. Tim Rutten of the LAT begins . . .
THE United States is at war in the Middle East and Central Asia, the economy is writhing like a snake with a broken back, oil prices are relentlessly climbing toward $100 a barrel and an increasing number of Americans just can’t afford to be sick with anything that won’t be treated with aspirin and bed rest.
So, when CNN brought the Republican presidential candidates together this week for what is loosely termed a “debate,” what did the country get but a discussion of immigration, Biblical inerrancy and the propriety of flying the Confederate flag?
In fact, this most recent debacle masquerading as a presidential debate raises serious questions about whether CNN is ethically or professionally suitable to play the political role the Democratic and Republican parties recently have conceded it.
After citing examples of CNN’s “intellectual venality” in the questions it picked, Rutten continues. . .
[I]t pales beside the wickedness of using some crackpot’s query about the candidates’ stand on Biblical inerrancy to do something that’s anathema in our system — to probe people’s individual religious consciences. American journalists quite legitimately ask candidates about policy issues — say, abortion — that might be influenced by their religious or philosophical convictions. We do not and should not ask them about those convictions themselves. It’s nobody’s business whether a candidate believes in the virgin birth, whether God gave an oral Torah to Moses at Sinai, whether the Buddha escaped the round of birth and rebirth or whether an angel appeared to Joseph Smith.
It certainly makes a case for the uselessness of this kind of debate format, and the irrelevance of CNN, the most trusted name in news, when it comes to politics. It also makes the case for journalists to go back to asking, and taking responsibility for, their own questions. I couldn’t agree more with Rutten’s conclusion.
In any event, CNN has failed in its responsibilities to the political process and it’s time for the leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties to take the network out of our electoral affairs.