The CNN/You Tube presidential debate last Tuesday night has Republicans crying “foul” and for good reason. The questioners were, for the most part, Democratic devotees who asked mostly trivial or loaded questions while ignoring such issues as the economy, health care, and international relations.

The format for the debate (with one glaring exception) was to play videotaped questions gleaned from some 5,000 You Tubers. Columnist “Richelieu” described the format as “clumsy webcam questions from Unabomber look-a-likes in murky basements.” The 33 questions that ultimately made it on the air were characterized by moderator Anderson Cooper as “coming from you,” meaning the viewers. One of those questions was posed by a woman identified as “Journey,” who asked if women should be punished for having abortions. An earlier You Tube video shows her wearing a John Edwards T-shirt.

The most controversial appearance came from retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who wanted to know why gays and lesbians are not allowed to serve openly in the armed forces. After his video query was played, Kerr suddenly appeared in person and went on a follow-up discourse about the many benefits to be gained by allowing gays to serve openly in the military. It was later revealed that the general is a co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s veterans’ committee, and that CNN paid Kerr’s air fare to have him flown from California to the debate venue in Florida.

When confronted with these “plants,” CNN’s senior vice president David Bohrman said there was “no way” that General Kerr was a supporter of the Hillary Clinton campaign. If that is so, then give an “F” to the legions of investigative reporters employed full-time by CNN. To compound the faux pas, CNN promoted the debate by declaring that the questioners from You Tube were all “ordinary Americans” and “undecided voters.” CNN network spokesman Sam Feist went on the offensive, condemning critics for “focusing on the questioners but not really focusing on the questions.” In all, six of the questioners proved to be Democratic partisans rather then typical voters.

One of the questioners, described by The Weekly Standard as a “zombie-eyed Bible waver” wanted to know if each of the candidates believed that every word in the Bible is true. Obviously he never read Mark Twain and his parody of Noah and the ark and Jonah in the belly of the whale. Anyway, Mitt Romney tried to sidestep the question but eventually declared, “I believe in the Bible.” It was ordained minister Mike Huckabee who brought down the house with his response that not everything in the Bible is to be taken literally – that much of the Bible is allegory and fable. “There are parts of the Bible that I don’t fully understand, but I’m not supposed to, because the Bible is the revelation of an infinite God and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their God is too small.”

A few weeks ago I submitted a column stating that the world seems to be divided into three classes: bloggers, citizen journalists, and journalists. The bloggers from You Tube who appeared via videotape to ask questions of the candidates seemed to have erected a partition between themselves and journalists, even “citizen journalists.” Alex S. Jones of Harvard’s Kennedy School and a former reporter for The New York Times writes: “Bloggers routinely reject civility, instead injecting vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar.”

Ouch! But the CNN/You Tube debate did demonstrate that bloggers often operate around the margins of mainstream journalism, thus gaining undeserved credibility and objectivity. But in this instance they partnered with credentialed CNN who must now carry the baggage of mistrust and skepticism, following Wednesday night’s debacle. As the New York Post put it, “If any more political plants turn up at CNN’s presidential debates, the cable-news network will have to merge with the Home and Garden channel.”

Chase.Hamil

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