Friday, June 1, 2007

Long Night for Joe Biden

It will be a mere TV show, not a Great Debate, in September when the Congressional Black Caucus's Democratic presidential debate airs on Fox: Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel attending. The rest of the Democratic contenders are refusing to go on Fox due to the alleged (OK, the real) conservatively-slanted bias of that station. (John Edwards is the only candidate so far to explicitly say so.) It seems to me that the candidates were asked to accept an invitation from the CBC, implicitly showing their respect for the good judgement of their host in arranging the venue. Surely this was the understanding all of those years with the League of Women Voters? There's no doubt that the CBC had their own discussion and debate about the decision to go with Fox, after all. Shouldn't their intentions be respected?
I don't know why the CBC chose Fox, but I can think of some reasons for doing so, mainly that a Democratic Party debate on Fox might enjoy a more politically diverse audience than usual. A different decision is the decision of the candidates to stay away, but the same logic mitigates against doing that: the public wants the Democratic Party to stand up to the right, to throw some punches, and not to appear so anxious not to alienate anyone politically.
It may very well be that Fox would like to use the opportunity to make Democrats in general look as bad as possible, although it's not clear how much control Fox would have over choice of questioners or questions. A subtext here is that this now-endless sequence of televised "debates" is souring with the candidates, who find that the moderators and questioners have too much control over the encounter and that the candidates have become ratings fodder for someone else. But if Fox does have malicious intentions for the Democrats, so much the better for the show I should think. The Democratic voters are looking for someone who can survive in this sort of environment, aren't we? Seems very unClintonlike to duck it, thinking along those lines. Think of the ratings.
As for the yet different question about "legitimizing" Fox, the right-wing propaganda machine, I think that doesn't work as an argument for two reasons. Politically this is an insular response: legitimate according to whom? I for one don't claim to have any authority to enforce what's legitimate; I respect the right of, say, the Amish to choose not to watch the number one-rated cable news channel. Secondly, don't we have a very standard lecture about how making pariahs of our enemies only makes pariahs of ourselves? Do Clinton, Obama and Edwards really mean to say that they won't even talk to Fox News? Come off it.
In any event, the candidates should attend out of respect for the Congressional Black Caucus. (And tip o' the hat this morning to Brian Lamb on C-Span's Washington Journal.)

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