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“The Business Of TV Media And Politics”: GOP And The Media…”Each Holding The Other Up, While Bringing The Other Down”

After the last GOP presidential debate, the Fox Business Network is determined to gloat about how much more accommodating they were to the candidates than CNBC. But there is a much deeper story about the relationship between television media and political campaigns than that kind of one-up-manship reveals. Michael Wolff captured that pretty well with a story titled: GOP Candidates are Hollywood’s Unlikely New Divas.

At some point, politics crossed over from being a civic obligation of television news to television news’ central business. The dutiful and high-minded became incredibly profitable, complicating the responsibilities and attitudes of journalists (and their managers), most recently in NBC’s exclusion from the Republican debate cycle over complaints about CNBC’s “gotcha”-style questioning.

News was once the loss leader of TV, and politics was the loss leader of news, the slog you waded through before crime, disaster, human interest, weather and sports. Two things changed that status.

The first thing Wolff points to that changed things is the flood of television advertising money from political campaigns – which is estimated to be as much as $5 billion in 2016 – “making politics the single biggest local television advertising category.” If not for revenue from political campaigns (and major sporting events), the entire television industry might be collapsing in this age of new media.

The second factor that Wolff identified captures where the Fox Business Network failed to produce.

While news organizations see themselves as information seekers and reasonable moderators, their additional, and financially advantageous, role is to be disruptors. That media-led upheaval arguably has helped (or given hope to) every candidate save for Jeb Bush. But it also is a con­venient bete noire by which nearly every candidate can gain an additional edge. It’s the double advantage of disruption: to benefit from it, and benefit from criticizing it — causing a further disruption…

It is almost impossible not to see everybody as a pawn in a larger game — or in someone else’s game. For TV news, this campaign is an unimaginable gift, one that, if conflict is maintained, will keep giving. For GOP candidates, the more volatile the season, the more everyone, save for the person at the top, benefits. For politicians, a no-argument issue that resonates with everybody, and that also produces more media attention, is to blame the media for, well, anything and everything.

For weeks after the CNBC debate, both the GOP candidates and media outlets were able to exploit the “disruption” caused by the complaints that were generated. Right now, everyone is busy patting each other on the back over how well they did…boring!

If Republican voters wanted an adult conversation about the issues, Donald Trump’s candidacy would have been toast a long time ago. And, of course, it was his inflammatory statements that fueled the biggest audience for presidential debates we’ve ever seen. Similarly, the recent reports about Ben Carson’s lack of truthfulness have produced eye-catching stories for the media. While Carson embraces the role of victim in all that, he also brags about how the conflict has sharply increased donations to his campaign. Disruption is what sells – for both the media and the candidates.

That’s why Wolff ends his article by saying that this campaign may be the first to highlight the co-dependence between these GOP candidates and the media…”each holding the other up, while bringing the other down.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 13, 2015

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Fox Business, GOP Primary Debates, Political Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It May Be Democrats Who Gain The Most”: Why Fox Business Is The Perfect Venue For The Republican Debate

The most recent Republican primary debate, which aired two weeks ago on CNBC, was a well-choreographed pageant of pandering, evasion, and deceit. Confronted with moderators who questioned the feasibility, consistency, and wisdom of their issue positions, the candidates responded not with demonstrations of their substantive knowledge, but with fabrications and unfounded accusations of media bias.

Republicans registered their dissatisfaction with enough petulance that the host of Tuesday’s debate, Fox Business Network, is trying to set itself apart. To avoid a repeat of the CNBC mess, it is making its moderators “invisible” and thus unable to interject when the candidates say untrue things.

It stands to reason that the GOP and Fox Business will serve each other’s purposes perfectly. By renouncing confrontation and skepticism, Fox Business will give Republican candidates the obstacle-free forum they demand; and in return, for distinguishing itself from CNBC, Republicans will refrain from attacking the network’s moderators as limelight-seekers or agents of a media conspiracy. A symbiosis of cynicism and reciprocal gratification.

But that isn’t to say the debate will redound to the benefit of either Republicans or their inquisitors. Republicans and Fox Business may figure out how to get along with one another, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the candidates or the network will enjoy lasting boosts to either their reputations or their ultimate aims. In the end, the winners of such a delicate presentation might well be the very people Republicans have sought to demonize, at the expense of misled and frustrated Republican voters.

The conservative movement in the Obama era has been marked by leaders who hyperbolize and over-promise, simultaneously stoking latent paranoia and failing to adequately confront these imagined dangers. Recent convulsions on the right—like former Speaker John Boehner’s resignation from the House, and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat last year at the hands of David Brat, a right-wing primary challenger—are widely characterized as self-defeating acts of conservative excess. But they can just as easily be characterized as the justified backlash of a disgruntled conservative rank and file. “[Cantor] wrote, ran on, and promised the Pledge to America,” Brat complained recently to reporters. “He is now name-calling, and making fun of—as ‘unrealistic’—those who are running on the pledges that he made on paper. So, Eric Cantor was the leader who put forward the Pledge to America, and we’re ‘unrealistic’ for following his logic. Run that by a college freshman in philosophy. That’s called a contradiction. Socrates would give him an F.”

Republican primary debates are venues for this kind of over-promising and underperforming on a grander, televised scale. The four leading Republican presidential candidates have promised to reform the tax code in equally, but uniquely unserious ways. Donald Trump would reduce revenues by $10 trillion over a decade, but he wishes away this immense calamity by claiming falsely and without any shame that his plan would generate 6 percent economic growth in perpetuity. Ben Carson proposes a tax plan based on the tithe. Ted Cruz’s combination of a flat income tax with a value-added tax would be less fiscally disastrous but much more regressive. Marco Rubio promises tax cuts so enormous that he’d have to eliminate the entire non-defense budget, save for Medicare and Social Security, to square away the rest of his promises. These ideas are the embers of the next right-on-right conflagration, which will erupt when the Repbulican nominee swings back to the center during the general election, or when the next Republican president fails to deliver what he promised.

CNBC’s fiasco proved that journalists who don’t enjoy the auspices of the conservative movement can’t successfully contest this kind of outlandishness in real time. Republicans will brush off outsider scrutiny as a symptom of media bias. Fox Business doesn’t have that problem. But if for the sake of coalition management its moderators decide they’re better off serving as enablers, it won’t be in the interest of the party or the candidates or GOP voters. They’ll be doing a favor to those who stand to gain from the right’s increasingly attenuated grip on reality.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, November 10, 2015

November 11, 2015 Posted by | Fox Business, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“That Old Anti-Government Mantra”: Bashing “Big” Government Is Easy, Effective And Out Of Touch With Reality

It is easy. It is simple. It plays into the current cynicism of Americans.

Bash government. Tear into not just Washington and the gridlock but into the federal government itself.

If you listen to this crop of Republican presidential candidates you will get an earful – constantly.

Carly Fiorina, for example, said in the CNBC debate, “And this big, powerful, corrupt bureaucracy works now only for the big, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected.” Heck, she sounds like Huey Long, what a populist. But coming from Fiorina, the epitome of the super wealthy, this statement is, indeed, rich.

And Chris Christie couldn’t resist: “The government has lied to you, and they have stolen from you.”

The debate went on and on with each candidate trying to outdo the other with attacks on government. So, you say, what’s new about that – it has been going on for decades.

Aside from being destructive and counterproductive, the attitude towards government as a big, bad, out-of-control bureaucracy increasingly does not fit reality.

First, let’s take a look at what constitutes the current federal government. Across the U.S., there are about 2,750,000 executive, legislative and judicial employees (federal civilian employees). There are another approximately 1,400,000 uniformed military employees. These numbers don’t include contractors or the postal service.

But here is a very interesting fact: Of those 2,750,000 civilian employees in government, 1,232,000 are employed in a military or homeland security capacity – about 60 percent. And the vast majority are employed outside the Washington area.

Veterans Affairs leads the list with 326,000 civilian employees, followed by the Army with 257,000, Homeland Security with 193,000, the Navy with 192,000, the Air Force with 166,00 and the Department of Defense with 98,000.

Thus, when we add those to the uniformed military we come up with about 2.7 million, which leaves only about 1.5 million working for the federal government in traditional non-defense/security-related agencies or for Congress or the judiciary.

And many of those employees whom voters typically associate as “government” have seen serious reductions over the last decade.

For those who constantly complain about government’s growth, from 2003 to 2013 we have seen workforce reductions of 17 percent at Housing and Urban Development, 14 percent at Agriculture, 11 percent at Treasury, 10 percent at Education, 10 percent at Environmental Protection Agency, 8 percent at Interior and the list goes on.

In addition, when considered as a percentage of the overall workforce, the 2,750,000 constitute just 2 percent, and the 1.5 million non-defense/security-related, just about 1 percent.

The bottom line, too, is that most of these people are working hard to do more with less, are committed to serving the public and care about contributing to society. They may not be glamorous jobs, or very high paying, but they are fulfilling because civil servants know that they are there to make a difference in people’s lives. The vast majority simply care and care deeply. And they don’t deserve the derision of politicians. Government is not the problem, and it is not bloated; sadly, that may be more of an apt description of some of the politicians.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government, Federal Government, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Irony Of Turkeys Being Excluded”: Here Comes The New (Old) Whine About GOP Debates

Just as the intended lynch mob aimed at Republican debate moderators began to disperse in disarray, we have a new source of candidate complaints and it’s the one that generated the fine old whine we heard earlier in the cycle: the thresholds set for participation in the Main and “undercard” events using national polls. What’s changed are the candidates most affected.

According to CNN Money, two candidates, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie, have been dropped from the Big Stage for failing to average 2.5% in recent national polls, and two others, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, won’t even get a seat at the kiddie table because they didn’t reach 1% in any of them.

Huck can make an argument that he’s totally focused on Iowa, though he’s not exactly on fire even there. And Christie has obviously been concentrating his limited resources on NH, where the latest poll (from WBUR) has him in 5th place with 8%. But the New Jersey governor’s bigger complaint might be that his performance in the CNBC debate, and the video of his rap on addiction that has gone near-viral, show a campaign that has risen from the dead even as some (Jeb! Jeb!) have squandered every advantage.

The two “bumped” candidates pretty much just grumbling right now; this is, after all, Fox we are talking about, and there’s only so much smack you can talk about those guys if you are a Republican who wants to get free exposure on Ailes’ various networks.

The real howling is coming from Graham, who’s come up with this novel reason for being kept on stage to croak War! War! War! like some sort of Low Country raven:

“It is ironic that the only veteran in the race is going to be denied a voice the day before Veterans Day,” Graham campaign manager Christian Ferry said.

I guess if the debate was being held a couple of weeks later a few candidates could salute the irony of turkeys being excluded. Maybe I should feed that line to Donald Trump.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 7, 2015

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Wrong Lessons Are Being Learned”: Stop Calling Them ‘Debates’. They’re Game Shows

After the bloody mess made by holding nearly two dozen debates in the 2012 election cycle, RNC chair Reince Priebus made reforming the Republican debate process one of his top priorities for 2016. It hasn’t worked. Why? Because these events are not debates at all. They’re game shows.

In 2011-12, attention-hungry candidates jumped at the chance to hold more and more debates, thinking the spotlight would help their candidacies. Instead, all those debates gave the media extra opportunities to find gotcha sound bites that damaged the party’s chances of winning against Barack Obama. Priebus pledged to keep that from happening this time around, by taking control of the debates, limiting their number, and pushing campaigns out of the strategy loop.

That didn’t work out so well.

Wednesday’s debacle on CNBC has infuriated the GOP’s 2016 presidential candidates, and has the RNC backpedaling. But the wrong lessons are being learned — and the candidates seemed poised once again to open the door to another 2012-style free-for-all.

Most observers agree that the CNBC debate was a disaster from start to finish. Seasoned journalists without a partisan ax to grind expressed their amazement and disgust at the spectacle. “Biggest loser of this debate isn’t JEB,” Ron Fournier tweeted during the debate. “It’s MSM. We’ve earned this bashing.” Even former DNC chair (and current governor of Virginia) Terry McAuliffe called the CNBC debate “an absolute farce … a joke … an embarrassment to our country.”

And so Republican candidates gathered this weekend to find a way to change the trajectory of the debates — and ended up making the problem even worse. The Ben Carson campaign argued that the debates needed to be severed from their network “sponsors.” A number of other campaigns didn’t want changes made to the format at all. The result was a series of “tweaks,” as Byron York put it, to be implemented after the upcoming Fox Business Channel debate on Nov. 10, which was deemed too close to change.

Even that modest outcome didn’t last a day. By Monday afternoon, the tenuous confederation of Republican candidates blew apart as frontrunner Donald Trump repudiated the agreement. Instead of coordinating between campaigns and broadcasters, Trump declared that he’d negotiate his own terms with the “sponsors,” and that the other candidates could either follow along or not. That threatens to return the GOP back to the 2012 dynamic, where candidates jumped at the chance to appear on television and dragged the other FOMO-plagued candidates through a gauntlet of televised debates.

The candidate confederation failed because all of these campaigns are competing with each other. The reason the RNC stepped into this role was to prevent exactly what Trump and his team want to do, which is to have 14 free agents negotiating with broadcasters.

But the reason the RNC’s original reforms failed is this: The RNC attempted to reform the wrong part of the process. The issue isn’t really how many debates take place, but the nature of the debates themselves, and the risk any one of them poses to the GOP.

These events are not debates in any substantive sense. The game-show format and the number of candidates on stage make substantive debate all but impossible. These are sound bite and gaffe contests, not a forum for sharp, honest arguments about the future of our country and party.

Nothing of substantive value emerged from two hours of wasted air time in the CNBC debate; indeed, all we have learned in nearly 14 hours of debate is how well the candidates can launch zingers. That might be valuable if we were electing the next Borscht Belt headliner, but hardly useful for choosing the next leader of the free world.

This is a failure of imagination more than a deficit of competence. We need to truly rethink debates themselves, and not just squabble over a hopelessly broken process. The RNC needs to put an end to both network sponsorship and the game-show format. If 14 candidates make the grade for a debate, then use a format that allows all 14 to make arguments for their policy choices. Offer a set of identical questions on a policy area to every candidate individually and give them each 15 minutes to answer, providing equal time for every candidate. That would require three and a half hours. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it’s still shorter than the undercard + main event of each of the three previous debates.

When the field comes down to a manageable number — say, six or fewer — then a two-hour debate has a chance to offer substantive discussions that can frame Republican and conservative policy in an attractive manner.

If networks don’t like that format, they can cover the forums from the sidelines. In fact, with the proliferation of broadband internet, the media partnership model should be an anachronism, not a tradition. Carson’s campaign is absolutely correct about the need to cut the network strings. Presidential forums will get plenty of coverage regardless of whether they get broadcast by an alphabet-named media outlet; filing rooms fill up with reporters from all media organizations for every debate. By taking ownership of the entire event, the RNC can select moderators who display objectivity in their reporting, or even better yet, choose media figures who know the Republican voters that candidates need to reach in the primaries. Priebus deserves credit for pushing the envelope already by involving media groups on the right (including my employer, Salem Media Group, as a partner in the CNN debates), but the reform needs to go all the way toward self-sufficiency.

The Republican Party learned a hard lesson last week about the game-show format and the ability of media figures to exploit it, especially in a crowded primary. Until they change the debate format itself and replace it with a format that rewards depth and substance, they will continue to get caught with their pants down — even if the RNC or the campaigns delude themselves into thinking they’re in control.

 

By: Ed Morrissey, The Week, November 4, 2015

November 5, 2015 Posted by | GOP Primary Debates, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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