IMMEDIATE RELEASE 8 Mar. 2016
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932
The reign of anarchy
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – Who is really at fault for the low-grade tenor of the current debates between people seeking the Republican and Democratic nominations for the presidency? A hint. It’s not the candidates.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “moderator” as: “Someone who leads a discussion in a group and tells each person when to speak.” Quite simply, moderators are the referees and umpires in this game of political discourse, and they are not doing their job.
For people old enough to remember television’s “This Week with David Brinkley,” now is a time for them to yearn for the good old days because Brinkley was the model no one followed. A literate gentleman who asked and encouraged substantive questions, he ruled his show with an iron gesture, though this is surmise because no one ever saw his gestures. But we know they were there because he never allowed two people to speak at once. Interrupting, to him, was not only bad manners, but bad television, it being a fact that when two or more people simultaneously speak none of them can fully be understood.
So, when Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., said to an interrupting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in their Flint, Michigan debate, “Excuse me, I’m speaking,” he was wrong, but not for the reason generally given. Pundits claimed he was being chauvinistic. Quite the contrary, he was doing what the moderator should have done.
He should have directed his complaint to the moderator: “Excuse me. This game has rules, and you are the referee. If you are not going to enforce those rules, you are going to let anarchy reign, and we may as well call this game right now.”
This, of course, was mild when compared to the Republican reality shows aka debates. They could not be more disgusting if the candidates came out in clown suits and threw cream pies at one another. And certainly they could because there are hardly any referees on the field. Megyn Kelly was an exception, insisting that her questions be heard and answered without interruption, but most of the moderators not only failed to moderate, they seemed to encourage disarray. After all, ratings for the Republican debates have gone through the roof.
But news organizations are expected to have journalistic integrity, and in a presidential campaign, this means providing the public with elucidation on the issues. Further, television executives might discover that direct, substantive questions might just offer more than enough entertainment. People do not watch football in hopes that the referees will head to the sidelines and let the players engage in fist fights. They watch because they like the game and the skills with which it is played, and that is more than enough entertainment for them. Should our game of selecting the leader of the free world be anything less? Let us end this reign of anarchy.
Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.
© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND