Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Daily Banter mailbag! In this weekly column, Bob Cesca, Ben Cohen and Chez Pazienza will answer mail sent in by readers. We'll pick the most concise, interesting and funny queries we receive and do our best to answer them!
In this weeks mail bag, our readers ask why the main stream media goes easy on Republicans, who we think Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would pick for VP candidate and which GOP politician ranks as the stupidest in the Presidential primaries:
Can you please give me your opinion as to why the republicans get a free ride on shows like Face The Nation, The Week, Meet the Press and Charlie Rose? Also, why are the media allowing Mitt to get away with so many lies?
- Sammy Williams
Bob Cesca: There's a well-documented systemic crisis within the traditional media: the press has been badgered into feeling self-conscious about any hint of a liberal bias.
Since the defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election, there's been a targeted and well-financed effort to attack the press for its alleged bias. Funded by conservative financiers like Richard Mellon Scaife and others, the goal of shifting the media focus to the right was relatively slow moving until Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes formed the Fox News Channel, which has become wildly successful. Several years later, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 added fuel to the conservative media fire and many news outlets feared being labeled "unpatriotic" on top of being labeled "liberal." These two events, 9/11 and the formation of Fox News, have combined to create the lopsided climate we see on cable news and the Sunday shows.
All of that said, the basis for the conservative gripe is entirely unfounded. While many journalists happen to be personally liberal, they're all employed by mega-corporations -- General Electric, News Corp, Disney, etc -- none of which have much interest in perpetuating liberal policies. Meanwhile, few of these journalists, unlike Fox News Channel, have a political agenda beyond reporting the news in the most compelling way possible. If there's any bias, it's for sensationalism and drama, irrespective of politics. However, by insisting that the news has a liberal slant, many journalists -- especially on television -- have caved to this right-wing hectoring rather than standing their ground on journalistic principles.
Stephen Colbert famously said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." If the news happens to have a liberal slant, then it should be reported accordingly. Instead, journalists who are held captive by the conservative echo-chamber are fabricating an artificial balance. And so the American discourse is hurt by inaccurate reporting -- or, almost as bad, the insufferable "politics as sports" horserace coverage we see so often on cable.
Chez Pazienza: I don't think the Republicans get a free ride any more than anyone else who's a big name in the Beltway. While there are definitely times when the hosts of these shows do their jobs and hold the feet of the country's leaders in government to the fire, more often than not you get the political version of a PG-13 horror movie -- violent, but not too violent. The reason for this, of course, is two-fold: 1) When that little red light goes dark above the lens of the camera, the ostensible inquisitor and accused both revert to being just a couple of friendly folks who travel in the same circles in DC; they're not actual adversaries and each one knows it. 2) The shows want continued access -- simple as that. The hosts know that these days, with more and more media outlets catering specifically to certain segments of the voting public, their influence is diminished greatly. Political leaders don't need the shows anymore the way they used to; they can now go directly to whichever news organization targets whichever audience they need to reach out to, and that audience generally takes the word of that news outlet as gospel and seeks only to have its biases confirmed in the first place. As to your question, that does actually favor Republicans these days because Fox News is the largest propaganda machine masquerading as a news operation in the country. If a Republican politician feels like he or she is getting roughed up on the old school Sunday morning network shows, that person will just run like a scared kid to Fox, who will invariably blow smoke up his or her ass in no time flat.
As for Romney -- the press is just too spineless to call a lie a lie. It believes that this is somehow a surrender of its supposed objectivity, which is unabashed nonsense.
Ben Cohen: Hey Sammy, I think the press avoids asking Republicans tough questions due to the perpetually moving goal post of the political center. Republicans have done a fantastic job of shifting the debate so far to the Right that in order to appear objective, the media continues to take both sides seriously. The reality is that one side believes in a functioning government, science, and diplomacy. The other believes in a fantasy society from 1950's propaganda movies, Adam and Eve, and blowing up any country that publicly disagrees with them. The reality is that main stream media journalists only rise to the top by sucking up to power, not challenging it. If they called out the entire GOP for its complete disregard for reality, they wouldn't get interviews, host talk shows or be relevant in the national dialogue. It's a weird bubble they've created with their own language and their own incestuous culture. I've just moved to DC and find it all very strange. Not something I'd like to be a part of, so I guess I won't be landing any Sarah Palin interviews in the near future.
If Mitt Romney wins, who do you think he'll choose as a running mate and why? The same for Rick Santorum?
- Bill Petrich
Chez Pazienza: Who the hell knows? Trying to predict the outcome of that horserace eventually tends to prove pundits to be the know-nothing doofs they generally always were. I mean, who could've fathomed that McCain would completely lose his mind and pick an inexperienced dolt like Sarah Palin? Conventional wisdom holds that Romney will have to choose someone far to the right of him who can help him out in the South and with evangelicals (and really, the entire GOP base, which doesn't like or trust Romney at all). Conversely, Santorum would probably be well to choose someone more centrist than he is who's less of a firebrand, but Santorum is a batshit crazy religious demagogue who's 100% certain in his convictions, so don't look for him to do the sensible thing -- ever.
Bob Cesca: I don't think Santorum will get the nomination, but if he does, he'll choose a Cheney type vice presidential running mate. Maybe Newt Gingrich or someone similar who has decades of experience in Washington. If it's Romney, he'll have to choose a swing-state conservative. I've been thinking lately that his running-mate could end up being Santorum or, perhaps, a favorite like Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie. Then again, he might want to lean heavily towards a southern conservative like Nikki Haley or even Rick Perry.
Ben Cohen: My guess is that Romney will pick someone like Jeb Bush - a credentialed conservative who will be able to attract the base Romney seems incapable of reaching. As for Santorum, he'll need to go in the opposite direction and find someone who appeals to all the demographics he has absolutely zero chance of attracting in a general election. I'll go out on a limb and say he picks Condoleeza Rice - a black, pro choice woman. It would be absolutely hilarious to watch the two of them appear in press conferences together. They'd absolutely hate each others guts, but realize that the only way to power was by working together. I'd actually pay money to watch that.
Can you rank the stupidity of the Republican candidates for President (including the original ones)? Who is top and why?
- Leland Whitehouse
Bob Cesca:Well, Rick Perry and Herman Cain weren't very bright but they're not around any more. So choosing from the current field, here's my list from dumbest (#1) to smartest.
1. Rick Santorum (A savvy politician who can memorize, but he doesn't appear to be intellectually curious.)
2. Ron Paul (Not nearly as smart as everyone thinks. His reliance upon the mythology of Ayn Rand reveals an immature worldview.)
3. Newt Gingrich (Pretends to be smarter than he really is, but he can write and think critically underneath the bullshit conservative memes and dog whistles.)
4. Mitt Romney (He's stiff and herky-jerky. While his flip-flops are troubling and symptomatic of pandering to the far-right, his former centrist views reveal an intellectual curiosity not found in the rest of the field)
Chez Pazienza: None of them are stupid. All, however, are various degrees of nuts.
Ben Cohen: Hermain Cain tops my list because he was so completely hopeless when asked about anything vaguely serious. Just watch this:
Michele Bachmann comes in a close second (anyone remember this quote?: "Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas"), and Rick Perry, the man whose environmental policy consisted of praying for rain, just trailing behind. The other candidate are not stupid if you ask me - a little crazy maybe, but crafty politicians with considerable ambition.
1. Hermain Cain
2. Michele Bachmann
3. Rick Perry
4. Rick Santorum
5. New Gingrich
6. Ron Paul
7. Mitt Romney
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