by Ken Feltman
I was part of a group of political consultants and media representative who were asked to Tweet our impressions during the Republican debate last night. I must have sent 50 Tweets. After the debate, an overnight analysis showed that many of us were critical of the Fox team that asked the questions. I wrote the following for Politico. It should appear tomorrow, Saturday.
Newt Gingrich’s objection to a question from Fox’s Chris Wallace during the Ames Republican debate was mostly about Newt trying to find a reason to stand out. He was hoping for his own Reagan moment and needed an offensive or silly question so he could attack the media. Wallace served it up.
Wallace’s question was no worse than several others asked by the Fox journalists. A telling point about the effectiveness of the journalists and their questions came after the debate. When others tallied the winners and the losers, some listed Fox as a loser. They were right. When a journalist becomes part of the story, that journalist has failed.
Fox failed the viewers. First, the debate was herky jerky. A few candidates were ignored for long stretches as other candidates dominated. Then those candidates vanished. Pawlenty was highlighted in the first hour and disappeared in the second hour. That created an impression of unfairness. An analysis of the actual time allotted to each candidate shows a more even distribution than viewers perceived. Perception becomes reality.
Next, the candidates did not have time to explore the important issues that are on the desk of President Obama: The economy, jobs, reacting to the Arab spring, withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, the riots in London, for example. Instead, the Fox team allowed Ron Paul to explore his out-there theories.
Finally, Bret Baier, the moderator, lost control and never regained it. He allowed his fellow Fox journalists to give the impression that they are media celebrities deserving equal billing with the candidates. Ah, hubris.