AN UGLY EVENING

Last night’s “debate” in Boulder,Colorado, Republican mano a mano, was more a debate between Republicans and an unfettered press. We believe in the latter but were hugely disappointed by the “unfettering.”

We’ve watched various candidates strike out at questioners from their podia, and listened to the press strike back That’s not what these events were designed to do. We do not need the press to be television stars. We did not tune in to see Becky Quick, John Harwood,and Carl Quintanilla smart-ass their way to greater salaries or notoriety. To be incisive is a good thing. To be overly rude is quite another. To follow one question with another is fair. To follow one question with opinions is something else again.

When the putative candidates discovered some weeks ago that they could take shots at their questioners, the debate trail narrowed. What had been meant to be a learning experience became an invitation to a beheading. The noise we struggled to understand came not from the stage last night, but from the moderators’ table. At times one wanted to leave the room, turn off the set, and let chips fall wherever.

The public for generations has trusted the press. No longer. If the press has an agenda, clearly viewed and understood by the public, the public is going to reject the collective wisdom and vision of the press. That’s what happened last night, and will continue to happen. If the press has a bias towards the Democrats, the value of that press is diminished. If towards the Republicans, the same thing is true.

There was neither respect nor understanding on view last night. It was not the fault of the candidates.

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