Debate questions: Fighting the demons of boredom!

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2011

Diane keeps the press corps awake: Midway through Saturday night’s debate, Diane Sawyer fought the boredom with this question—the kind which makes the tired blood course through a pseudo-journalist’s veins:
SAWYER (12/10/11): We have a question on Yahoo about the last time those of you had a personal financial strain that forced you to cut back on a necessity, as so many people in the middle class say they do. What were the consequences you're, you faced and will you weigh in on that? And that's when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

“Many of us are forced to make cuts to continue necessities such as mortgage payments, groceries, transportation to work and health care.” And then the question continues.

They want to know, when is the last time you had a personal financial strain that forced you not only to give up a luxury, but also to cut back on a necessity? And what were the consequences you faced? This is from Andrew in Texas.
“As so many people in the middle class say they do!” Go ahead. You can chuckle a while!

It wasn’t Andrew’s fault in Texas that Diane chose to read his question. But now, all the hopefuls got to recall a time when they had it bad.

Needless to say, Ashley Parker perked up at this time.

In this morning’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd cites Newt’s three wives at three different points in her column—early, middle and late. Parker was once Dowd’s “research assistant.” In the current campaign, her job is to make the Dowdism creep all through the Times’ “news reporting.”

In recent weeks, Parker has done a front-page report about Mitt Romney’s hair. A few days later, she did a front-page report about candidate friendship patterns. (Yesterday, Michael Barbaro got the front page for a pseudo-report about Romney’s marriage.)

This morning, Parker gets all over Romney’s response to Sawyer’s “Yahoo” question. She doesn’t get today’s front page, but she gets three color photos—and she ends her ruminations in a familiar place:
PARKER (12/14/11): A day earlier, at a town hall in Hudson, N.H., when a voter asked Mr. Romney to share an experience that had helped change his perspective, he immediately turned to his time as a young missionary in France, living off a monthly stipend of $110.

“You’re not living high on the hog at that kind of level,” Mr. Romney said, before recounting how he and his fellow missionaries would sometimes pay a few francs to use a public shower once a week or rinse off in the kitchen with a bucket and a hose.

“A number of apartments I lived in when I was there didn’t have toilets,” he said. “We had instead the little pads on the ground. O.K., you know how that works. There was a chain behind you, it was kind of a bucket affair.”

The audience laughed at Mr. Romney’s response, which seemed geared toward tackling the central problem of his campaign: Forget about having a beer with him—the rub against Mr. Romney is that people just can’t quite get a read on him.
Romney went without toilets! Meanwhile, leave it to Parker to go to the “glass of beer” standard—and then beyond. Parker is there to dumb the world down, not unlike Sawyer before her.

An earlier break in the napping: Earlier in the debate, Stephanopoulos popped this question, snapping the "press corps" awake:
STEPHANOPOULOS (12/10/11): We are back. It has been a rocking debate so far. And we want to get to another issue that you all have talked about extensively in this campaign, and that is values, family, and faith.

Governor Romney and Governor Perry, you both made it a feature of ads you ran in Iowa this week, which leads to this question from our partners at The Des Moines Register. And I want to show it up on the screen.

"Should voters consider marital fidelity when making their choices for president?" And, Governor Perry, in South Carolina this week, you said this is an important issue. Why?
How poor were you? And while we're at it, how’s your fidelity?

Maybe George felt he had to work "blue." It was a Saturday night!

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