In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, columnist William McGurn wrote “Thank you,CNBC: For giving millions of Americans front-row seats to the press bias against Republicans.”
The great irony here is that it was precisely CNBC’s bias that made for such a good evening for Republicans. Republicans are always complaining about the media double standard—and last Wednesday night, CNBC gave millions of Americans the full monty. Viewers also saw how powerful it can be when Republicans take the opportunity to turn questions back on their inquisitors.
McGurn rightly noted that there’s nothing wrong with pointed questions: “Truth is, CNBC’s Waterloo had little to do with its moderators’ questions and everything to do with the snark and contempt they came drenched in. For example, Mr. Harwood’s characterization of Donald Trump’s bid as a ‘comic book version of a presidential campaign’ did not make his question any tougher. It simply made it insulting.”
He noted the CNBC moderators consistently challenged the anti-Big Government assumptions of the Republican contenders, and noted this is exactly what does not happen with the Democrats. In the CNN Democratic debate, Dana Bash upset liberals with one exception -- a question (and a followup) on how employers could be forced to fund paid family leave to employees.
McGurn offered sample contrarian questions that could be put to Democrats:
• Martin O’Malley, you were mayor of a city whose recent riots have highlighted its poverty, broken public schools and lack of opportunity. Fifty years and hundreds of millions of tax dollars after LBJ launched the War on Poverty, cities such as Baltimore have almost nothing to show for it. Given this record, why should anyone think government has an answer?
• Bernie Sanders, you say our system of campaign financing is corrupt and has been co-opted by billionaires, to the point where only the well heeled and well connected can get ahead. Yet over on the GOP side, Ben Carson—a political outsider—gets his funds from mom-and-pop donations and has risen to the top of the polls, while the candidate with the big-time corporate bucks, Jeb Bush, is floundering. So how can you claim our political campaigns need more regulation?
• Mrs. Clinton, back in the 1990s your husband concluded the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed legislation repealing the Glass-Steagall restrictions on affiliations between banks and securities firms, and embraced welfare reform and cuts in capital gains taxes. In 1996, he famously declared “the era of big government is over.”
Today you are running on a pro-tax, pro-regulation, pro-spending platform that is almost the opposite of your husband’s economic record. If his policies worked so well in the 1990s, why are you running against them today?
• Here’s one for all three: Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders and Mr. O’Malley, all of you support an increase in the federal minimum wage. Are any of you aware that the Davis-Bacon Act—the first federal minimum-wage law—was passed in part to prevent southern black workers from taking construction jobs from unionized white workers up north?
Of course, it’s impossible to imagine any universe in which Democrats would answer such questions because it’s impossible to imagine their ever being asked in the first place.
But wait, Bill McGurn! One of those did happen. Recall CNN’s Jake Tapper with Martin O’Malley breaking the mold with the conservative counterargument at end of April:
JAKE TAPPER: Your record as mayor and then governor includes millions more for public school, after-school programs, mentoring programs, intervention with at-risk youth, drug treatment. What do you say to conservatives who say, this shows that liberal policies are failing urban America? Everything, this is a Democratic city in a Democratic state, everything that they want to do, they do here and look at West Baltimore. It's still horrible.
What Tapper received was a lame answer about how “America is failing America.”