Thursday, November 29, 2007


The Secret Life of Plants

As has been widely reported in blogworld, CNN goofed big time by not vetting several of its YouTube video questioners at the GOP debate. The network got great ratings for the night, but it certainly ended up with egg on its face -- especially for not figuring out that retired officer Keith Kerr had already signed on to the Clinton campaign, but also for not discovering what several bloggers figured out in just a few hours -- that other questioners were people who had already declared for one Democratic candidate or another.

But thank goodness for Ed Morrissey, who chides CNN but correctly asks, "So what?"

Abject incompetence, yes. If these bloggers could discover this information -- mostly from their YouTube profiles, not exactly heavy lifting -- then CNN should have vetted the questioners better. With the possible exception of General Kerr, it doesn't appear that the questioners made any attempt to hide their affiliation; they simply posted their questions, and CNN blithely selected them at face value.

Bad journalistic practices? Definitely yes. But does that negate the questions themselves? I don't think so. The CNN/YouTube format closely parallels that of the traditional town-hall forum. For the most part, attendees do not get vetted at these events either, nor should they. After all, while a primary usually involves voters of one party, the entire nation has a stake in the selection of the nominees. If Hillary Clinton held a town hall in my community, I should have an opportunity to question her about her positions on issues without pledging a loyalty oath to do so.

For that matter, one shouldn't even have to identify from what party one belongs just to ask a candidate a question. Even though several of the YouTube clips were painful to watch, the fact is that this debate was one of the more memorable because the candidates truly mixed it
up (Romney vs. Giuliani, McCain vs. Paul, McCain vs. Romney vs. Huckabee) in a way that they hadn't in previous ones. That may not have been a result of the format, but it's true nonetheless.

While it is good that conservatives have successfully provided a "check" on mainstream media errors and arrogant behavior, at times it appears that we get far too caught up in process issues rather than actual substance. No Republican candidate was "harmed" by the YouTube debate. To the extent that anyone was embarassed, it ended up being CNN for not doing its homework (or for allowing General Kerr to ramble on after the candidates had responded to his initial question).

Time to move on.

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