Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crazy like a Fox. Not.

I'm not kidding myself: the debates have been less than riveting and sometimes even demeaning. During them the next commander-in-chief has participated in awkward "pick me! pick me!" moments and after them sore losers have felt a compelling need to revise and extend comments that had been limited to 30-second bites -- or just an auction-house twitch.

Only today, nearly a month after he joined fellow Republican debaters at the Reagan Library who "do not believe" in evolution, Sam Brownback takes to the op-ed page of the New York Times to explain himself. "As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands," he writes.


Why Bother? Because Nixon went to China

So, the debates are not conducive to thoughtful discussion, they favor the well-rehearsed "impromptu" put-down (think Rudy expressing shock, shock, at Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee vs Congress via John Edwards) and the best arguments tend to come from
There will be incendiary questions. Some will be unfair. Democrats can expect many "When did you stop beating your wife (or husband, Hillary)" questions. Tough.
the least likely to get the nomination (think Mike Gravel, Paul and Dennis Kucinich).

So why bother with these things, 500 days out? Because they are there. Because turning down a debate-fest invitation for any reason other than a death in the family looks bad. Because Nixon went to China. That's why it makes no sense for Democrats to avoid a debate because it is on Fox, for whatever reason.

Parse it any way you want: not showing up appears weak, not principled -- "Who's Afraid of Fox News?" the Washington Times asks. So far that seems to be top-tier candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and, as of today, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson. Secretary of State candidate Joe Biden, and foils Gravel and Kucinich have RSVP'd "yes," assuming the debate takes place.

Taking on Fox

Part of this stems from a campaign by some liberal groups to ostracize Fox, whom they do not regard as (ahem)"Fair and Balanced." Moveon.org puts it this way:

This is not about Democrats being afraid to go on Fox, or about whether Fox is free to air their right-wing views. It's about whether Democrats will help Fox lie about who they are -- putting them on a national stage as a "fair and balanced" debate moderator.
My goodness. This is the sort of petulance each of these candidates would waste no time criticizing in the man they want to replace. Come to think of it, they have: by supporting talks with Iran and Syria in the context of the Iraq Study Group's report they have endorsed the concept of talking to your enemies to accomplish a worthy end without fretting about legitimizing them or treating talks as a reward.

Is it even the business of a candidate to consider appearing on a US television network is in the context of a political spat? What happens next year when Fox gets to host a debate between the Republican and Democratic nominee?

Incendiary, Unfair Questions? Tough

There will be incendiary questions from Chris Wallace & Co. Some will be unfair. Republicans who debated courtesy of Fox were baited to within an inch of their conservative lives. So the Democrats can expect many "When did you stop beating your wife (or husband, Hillary)" questions.

Tough. If you can't take on Wallace I don't want you looking into Putin's eye. Perhaps they can all take solace from the fact that Bill Clinton got sandbagged by Wallace last year one-on-one (Part I and Part II) and did just fine.

And anyway, there will be plenty of do overs. Even if, like Brownback, it takes a month to come up with something like this:

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
Got it now?

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