By Roger Aronoff
While the media focus on which of the candidates did well, and which didn’t, they overlooked the biggest loser of the night: the media. Whether intended or not, the difference in the questioning of the Democrats in their October 13 debate versus the questioning of the Republicans in their three debates so far proved to be an issue that boiled over in Wednesday night’s debate. The Republican candidates decided to expose the obvious double standard by which the two party’s candidates are questioned, and punch back.
Yet The Washington Post listed winners and losers, without mentioning the media. Same for an article on the CNBC website. But for those of us offended by the media’s kid-glove treatment of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats during their first debate, it was refreshing to see some of the Republicans taking their gloves off when it came to pointing out the media’s obvious bias.
Until the Democratic debate on CNN took place, many viewers still had the idea that the media were neutral players in the presidential race. But there were no questions about the many conflicts of interest between Mrs. Clinton’s actions as secretary of state and her family’s Clinton Foundation, which we have extensively cited. Nor were there questions about her handling, or mishandling, of classified materials on her unsecured, private server which she used for all of her emails during her four years as secretary of state.
Here were a few of the highlights aimed at the media bias against the GOP.
CNBC’s John Harwood asked this sarcastic question of Republican front-runner Donald Trump:
HARWOOD: Mr. Trump, you’ve done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it. Send 11 million people out of the country. Cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit. And make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others. Let’s be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?
Trump was not amused.
Carl Quintanilla aimed a gotcha question at Sen. Ted Cruz:
QUINTANILLA: Senator Cruz. Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear of—another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?
Cruz responded with perhaps the most applauded line of the evening:
CRUZ: You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. (APPLAUSE) This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions—“Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”
How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about? And Carl—Carl, I’m not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, “Which of you is more handsome and wise?” And let me be clear.
QUINTANILLA: So, this is a question about (inaudible), which you have 30 seconds left to answer, should you choose to do so.
CRUZ: Let me be clear. The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. And nobody watching at home believes that any of the moderators had any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions that are being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other. It should be, ‘what are your substantive positions…’
Sen. Marco Rubio also took aim at the media:
RUBIO: OK. I know the Democrats have the ultimate Super Pac. It’s called the mainstream media who every single day… and I’ll tell you why. Last week, Hillary Clinton went before a committee. She admitted she had sent e-mails to her family saying, “Hey, this attack at Benghazi was caused by Al Qaida-like elements.” She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar…But she has her Super Pac helping her out, the American mainstream media.
QUINTANILLA: So when the Sun-Sentinel says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?
RUBIO: Let me say, I read that editorial today with a great amusement. It’s actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media today.
QUINTANILLA: Well, do you hate your job?
RUBIO: Let me—let me answer your question on the Sun-Sentinel editorial today. Back in 2004, one of my predecessors to the Senate by the name of Bob Graham, a Democrat, ran for president missing over 30 percent of his votes. I don’t recall them calling for his resignation —
QUINTANILLA: Is that the standard?
RUBIO: Later that year, in 2004, John Kerry ran for president missing close to 60 to 70 percent of his votes. I don’t recall the Sun—in fact, the Sun-Sentinel endorsed him. In 2008, Barack Obama missed 60 or 70 percent of his votes, and the same newspaper endorsed him again. So this is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement.
Instead of cowering in fear of the media, it appears that a number of the GOP candidates are fighting back, and calling them out. It wasn’t the first time, but it felt like a turning point. It’s about time.