National Journal Editor: GOP Candidates Get Tougher Debate Questions Than Dems

As the 2008 presidential campaign moves into high gear, a common conservative complaint has been that Democrat candidates have so far been largely asked softball questions by liberal moderators at their debates, while the Republicans have actually been vigorously challenged by media personalities in theirs.

On CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday morning, former Capitol Hill correspondent for ABC, and current contributing editor to the National Journal, Linda Douglass, made it quite clear that she agrees with such concerns.

Host Howard Kurtz, after playing a video clip of musician Melissa Etheridge asking Hillary Clinton (D-New York) a question at a recent debate, posed the following:

Linda Douglass, my question is with those kinds of personal, first-person, emotional queries, do we really need journalists at these debates? Aren't these questions sort of better than the kind of questions that reporters ask?

Douglass couldn't disagree more:

Well, there's been such an interesting contrast between the Democratic debates and the Republican debates in a couple of ways. Yes, it's true that at the Democratic debates, the YouTube debate, certainly the AFL-CIO debate, certainly the gay and lesbian activist debate, that you're really seeing voters who are important constituencies inside the Democratic Party asking the kinds of questions that they are particularly interested in. Teachers were able to ask questions at a teacher's debate. There have been a lot of specific constituency questions for the Democrats which is causing the Democrats to address those specific constituencies.

The Republicans on the other hand have not been asked questions by voters. But they are being asked questions by hard-nosed journalists such as George Stephanopoulos which cover the range of issues. And I actually think that we're seeing a more realistic display of Republican positions caught off guard not expecting the questions by a journalist than we sometimes are at the Democratic debates.

You're darned right, Linda. Thank you for being so honest with your assessment.

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