Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tonight's CNBC GOP Presidential Candidates' Event

It appears to be CNBC's turn to create havoc among the sheep-like field of GOP presidential candidates this evening in a 2-hour event I won't dignify with the term 'debate,' but, rather, the more appropriate term 'event.'

I've written a series of posts over on my companion political blog regarding the prior events here, under the 'debate' label.

After the September Fox News/Google event, I wrote this post wherein I suggested a better format for cable channels to provide voters with access to candidates and their ideas,

"I think what would be more meaningful to me would be something like the following. A network provides a weekly two-hour slot for its 'candidate of the week.' One of the GOP presidential hopefuls sits on a set with one or two moderators and answers questions from online feeds and a live audience. Moderators provide follow-up questions and/or fill in background on the candidate's prior remarks on the topic. Or contrast their stance with other candidates, etc.

And, for good measure, the original audience/online questioner gets a few minutes of give-and-take with the candidate, so if the latter evades the question, the questioner can complain about that and note it for everyone else.

I really don't care so much what Mitt thinks about Rick. Or what Newt thinks about anyone. Or what Rick (Santorum) does to try to look relevant.

In the end, I care more about how these people interact with prospective voters than how they fence with each other. I don't expect them to agree with each other, so what's the surprise in these bear-baiting formats?"
Fox News subsequently began something like that with Brett Baier's Special Reports "Center Seat" segment. Once each week, they invite a major GOP candidate to spend about 10 minutes taking questions from and discussing issues with Baier's panel, usually including Charles Krauthammer, Juan Williams or Mara Eliason, and Steve Hayes. Last night Newt Gingrich was the guest candidate. It's a far better approach, because the focus is on one candidate and his/her positions.
For example, coming immediately after Herman Cain's tension-filled press conference to address his anonymous and named accusers of sexual harassment, Juan Williams asked Newt, point blank, if his various marriages, infidelities and the story of his serving divorce papers to his wife while she was in the hospital, didn't constitute too much baggage for him to win the Oval Office. Gingrich answered calmly, referring to his daughter's accusations, which he never the less labeled as false.
With this as background, let me comment on the face which will take place on CNBC this evening from 8-10PM, EST. With a panel including Maria Butt-iromo and her annoying lisp and general air-headedness, and socialist political commentator and New York Times correspondent "Red" John Harwood, you can bet most of the two hours will consist of baiting the GOP candidates with questions designed to create convenient sound bites for the currend president's re-election staff to use in subsequent campaign commercials.
This won't be anything remotely resembling an honest, non-partisan attempt to ascertain the candidates' views on the economy and business.
I've been hearing CNBC's self-aggrandizing promos for this event for days now. Breathless soundbites alleging that this is what voters have been waiting for, it's the big moment to underpin their decisions. That we'll learn how each candidate plans "to jumpstart the economy." That's a direct quote.
So let's examine it.
A conservative's approach to the economy specifically eschews the belief that government can 'jumpstart the economy" in some direct, active manner.
At present, I think it's fair and accurate to say that the truly conservative candidates would, ideally, say that the most they can do is to reduce growth-retarding uncertainty caused by the federal government. This would largely consist of reversing excessive energy- and finance-related regulations, a tax-code overhaul to reduce rates, remove preference items and simplify the code, and the exit of federal government from subsidizing any businesses, such as so-called 'green energy' investing and mortgage bond guarantees, to the detriment of private sector efforts to do the same things.
The problem, of course, is that these reasonable steps will sound insufficient, because they don't purport to immediately "create jobs."
Never mind that conservatives, and most of the GOP candidates, don't believe government should directly create jobs. They will be pummeled by most of the CNBC panel for being cold-hearted, uncaring and, in effect, promising a priori to do nothing to help millions of unemployed Americans.
You need to remember that most CNBC on-air anchors believe in failed Keynesian economics and the current administration's economic policies.
However, with the exception of Rick Santelli, a former CME trader and executive, who I believe will be on the panel of questioners, the rest of the CNBC panel will likely be liberals who simply don't believe, if they even understand, how conservatives approach government's role in the US economy.
Which brings me to a post entitled Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment & The CNN Las Vegas GOP Event, which I wrote on my political blog late last month. In it, I opined,
"Why aren't the top 8 candidates coordinating how they will control so-called debates at which they appear? Didn't anyone's communications directors or campaign managers realize that attending a CNN event was to invite disaster and humiliation?

Perhaps the RNC should get between the candidates and the networks, brokering formats so that the focus is on moderator or audience questions, not candidate-to-candidate criticism. Honestly, voters are smart enough to figure out what they want to know from each candidate. They don't need other candidates to help them on that score.

Networks want to create newsworthy events, which typically means force in-fighting and embarrassing gaffes. The RNC and the candidates should all want to provide voters with opportunities to learn more about each candidate's positions, not how the candidates feel about other candidates' positions.

I would really love to see the RNC chair now step forward and take control of future candidate events, mislabeled as 'debates,' and enforce formats that minimize violations of Reagan's 11th commandment, i.e., Thou shalt not criticize a fellow Republican."
How I wish the RNC had taken my advice prior to tonight's CNBC event.
Will I watch it- almost certainly not. I'll likely Tivo it, in order to fast forward through the questions from the more liberal, less intelligent CNBC staffers, stopping where I see Santelli participating.

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