MAY LOOK LIKE LIBERAL BIAS: Opening questions to Candidate Trump!


Part 3—Derision, snark and denial:
To conservative voters, many acts by the mainstream press may look like acts of liberal bias.

In some cases, it would be hard to say that their perception is wrong. As one example, consider the ludicrous editorial which appeared in last Friday's New York Times.

The editorial carried this headline: "Gov. Christie, Time to Go Home." The editors argued that Candidate Christie should quit the current White House campaign and return to his work in New Jersey.

That wasn't the ludicrous part. The ludicrous part is shown below. To conservatives voters, this peculiar passage may seem to reflect liberal bias:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (10/30/15): It must have been rough for those who re-elected [Christie] to see him hold forth Wednesday in a debate that centered on the national economy, when he’s been a net failure on the New Jersey economy...Mr. Christie’s promises, from fixing the state’s pensions shortfall to its infrastructure, have come to less than nothing. More galling still is that he was not the only such politician on the dais. Since when does shortchanging your home state—looking at you, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal—qualify a public servant to be president?
According to the Times editorial board, Senator Rubio and Senator Cruz are "shortchanging their home states" by running for president. The editors offer no evidence or argument in support of this claim.

If you're a conservative voter, some questions will almost surely come to mind:

Is Senator Sanders shortchanging Vermont in his bid for the White House? Was Senator Clinton shortchanging New York in the 2008 campaign?

Did a certain solon shortchange Illinois when he successfully sought the White House in 2007 and 2008? Did the Times ever run editorials which snarkily suggested that these senators should quit their respective campaigns?

To conservative voters, the snarky bombast of that editorial will look like liberal bias. It's hard to say that this perception is wrong.

But then, in the age of Andrew Rosenthal, the Times has published many such editorials. It's hard to say that a type of bias, expressed in double standards, doesn't routinely appear.

The Rosenthal gang took a shot at Candidates Rubio and Cruz. Any conservative worth his salt would suspect he saw the glaring presence of a double standard.

How strange! Two nights earlier, in the latest Republican debate, Candidate Rubio found himself confronting similar questions. Below, you see the first prepared question for this candidate, along with its follow-up question.

Just for the record, these questions weren't about matters of substance. They represented the end of a brief discussion of a major matter of substance.

Twelve minutes into the real debate, these questions marked an important departure. They signaled the end of any attempt by CNBC to conduct a serious examination of the ludicrous budget plans these candidates have proposed:
QUINTANILLA (10/28/15): This one is for Senator Rubio. You've been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. You've had a big accomplishment in the Senate, an immigration bill providing a path to citizenship the conservatives in your party hate, and even you don't support anymore. Now, you're skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or at least finish what you start?


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?
Twelve minutes into this debate, this candidate was being asked if he shouldn't perhaps 1) drop out of the White House race, or 2) resign from the senate.

To us, those seem like unusual questions. We don't think we've ever seen a moderator ask a question which was quite as insolent as that first question—and no, those questions didn't concern policy matters.

The candidate claimed a double standard on the part of the Sun-Sentinel, describing the way they've covered other candidates who missed a lot of senate votes while they were out on the trail. Did the Sun-Sentinel apply a double standard? We have no idea.

For ourselves, the larger meaning of those questions involves a fact the moderators were signaling—the fact that they had no intention of examining the crazy budget plans these candidates have proposed. This may suggest that these moderators were actually working from within the sphere of influence of our billionaire elites.

Still, to many conservative voters, that rather insolent pair of questions may look like liberal bias. So may the second question for this candidate, which extended Quintanilla's oddly disparaging theme:
QUICK (10/28/15): Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you've had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally inter-mingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year, you liquidated a $68,000 retirement fund. That's something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy. What do you say?
Despite the porridge you've been fed by apologists like Ezra Klein, William Saletan and even Kevin Drum, Becky Quick had no intention of probing the ludicrous budget plans those candidates have proposed. Instead, she wondered if the fact that Rubio liquidated a retirement fund means that he's too immature to be president.

To conservative voters, those questions will almost surely seem to carry the odor of liberal bias. We wouldn't make that assumption ourselves, for the reasons we've suggested.

We would say that those questions are examples of very strange "journalism." But for whatever reason, the moderators of last week's debate posed such questions right from the start.

Half an hour into the evening, Candidate Cruz attacked the moderators for the tone of their questions. In our view, he had a decent point. For today, let's consider the opening pair of actual questions, directed to Candidate Trump.

As the debate began, six minutes were burned as the candidates were asked to discuss their greatest weakness. Then, the actual questions began.

John Harwood started like this, addressing Candidate Trump:
HARWOOD (10/28/15): 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.

TRUMP: Right.

HARWOOD: Send 11 million people out of the country. Cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit.

TRUMP: Right.

HARWOOD: And make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others.

TRUMP: That's right.


HARWOOD: Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?

TRUMP: No, not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question the way you say that...
Let's understand what Harwood did. He asked Trump about a range of campaign promises—about the promise to build a giant wall; about the promise to make Mexico pay for the wall; about the promise to deport everyone who's in the country without authorization; the promise of a major tax cut, which will produce increased prosperity without increasing the deficit.

He then gave Candidate Trump sixty seconds to discuss this range of topics! As a kicker, he asked if Trump was running "a comic book version" of a White House campaign.

We're not sure we've ever seen a moderator ask a question like that. In his follow-up question, Harwood went down that same snarky road:
HARWOOD: We're at the 60 seconds. We're at the sixty seconds. We're at 60 seconds, but I gotta ask you, you talked about your tax plan.

You say that it would not increase the deficit because you'd cut taxes $10 trillion and the economy would take off like—


HARWOOD: Hold on, hold on. The economy would take off like a rocket ship.

TRUMP: Right. Dynamically.

HARWOOD: I talked to economic advisers who have served presidents of both parties. They said that you have as much chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.
We're not sure we've ever seen a question like that one either. In each of his questions, Harwood used colorful imagery which was openly derisive/insulting/dismissive, or which came rather close.

Might we offer a speculation? Harwood seemed to be placing provocation, attitude and snark ahead of sound journalistic practice.

In this age of cable snark and snide, it may be that Harwood's corporate owners had directed him to do this. He may have been following orders! But in the course of doing so, Harwood helped trigger an angry rejoinder by Cruz which constituted a giant distraction from the substance of the debate, to the extent that there was any.

He also asked a pair of dumb-assed questions.

In that follow-up question, Harwood could have quoted respected budget authorities who have challenged Trump's ludicrous claims directly, on the record. Instead, he treated the world to his masterful wit and his worthless snark, triggering the ten millionth pointless debate about alleged liberal bias.

As the post-debate discussion unfolded, apologists would jump up to swear that Harwood, Quintanilla and Quick had staged a substantive debate. How silly did these claims get? Tomorrow, we'll even show you Ezra Klein, seeming to claim that he doesn't know why Harwood's "comic book" reference should be seen as derisive or unusual.

"I’m a comic book nerd," Klein writes, "and even I don’t know what it means to ask if something is a 'comic book presidential campaign.' "

Trust us. Conservative voters do know what it means to ask a question like that. To them, Harwood's language will seem like an obvious marker of liberal bias.

We wouldn't make that assumption ourselves. That said, we also know what it means to talk about a candidate's "comic book campaign." Ezra Klein was willing to say that he doesn't know what that means!

He also said that he thinks the debate was unusually substantive. Tomorrow, we'll ask two important questions:

Do you believe a word of that? And how did we get to this point?

Tomorrow: The abject refusal to challenge or question those ludicrous budget plans


  1. "To conservative voters, many acts by the mainstream press may look like acts of liberal bias." Bob Somerby

    I wonder why, asks an energetic, smart, likeable Somerby reader.

    For fifty years they have been taught "we will not be intimidated by the vultures of the liberal left-wing press. We will not be deceived by their lies and distortions of truth." 7/4/64

    It is because "the lamestream media characters get all wee-wee'd up about" things. 2/21/12

    "the Democrats have the ultimate Super PAC. It's called the mainstream media." 10/28/15

    But if the press would only take Dr. Somerby's wee-wee reduction pills and vulture removal elixir, they will be able to ask questions which cause even the most partisan conservative to avoid making that familiar "liberal bias" charge even when you pronounce the tax and budget plans of all ten Republican candidates are "crazy."

    1. @ 12:14, when you refer to "the tax and budget plans of all ten Republican candidates" do you mean the people described by a prominent Liberal bias fighter as:

      "the assortment of goons concerning their crazy budget proposals"?

  2. It does seem to me that the "time to go home" criticism, aimed by the NYT editorial page at Christie, Cruz, Rubio, and Jindal, is a criticism that works better on governors than senators. After all, there are two senators per state, one governor. If the guv is spending all his or her time out of state doing presidential campaign stuff, presumably that hurts the state much more than senators' absences. After all, as the governors tell us themselves, over and over, they are executives and thus much more important and much more prepared to be president than non-executives, such as senators.

    Thus, this particular charge is less relevant when aimed at Cruz, Rubio, or Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Bernie Sanders or Senator Barack Obama.

    1. This assumes the Senate and Congress actually do anything. Hard to see how the absence of a Democratic senator matters when the votes being taken are either futile or symbolic. Nevertheless, Sanders is conspicuously still doing his job, having introduced new legislation this past week.

      Democrats understand these criticisms as a complaint about the quality of working being done by absentee Republicans, whether governors or senators. Republicans assume the quality is fine and see it as just another unfair attack. I don't see any way around that problem. Complaining that if we attack Republicans for the quality of their work in office, we will be called partisan, doesn't make much sense to me. We need to be attacking these guys because they are not doing good work (quantity or quality-wise). I disagree with Somerby that moderators must soft-peddle their criticisms during debates for fear of seeming biased. Criticism = liberal bias, no matter who expresses that criticism. There isn't any way to avoid being accused of bias except by avoiding criticism, but that isn't the function of a debate either. These questions need to be asked and I don't think the snark was the problem.

  3. Somerby says:

    "According to the Times editorial board, Senator Rubio and Senator Cruz are "shortchanging their home states" by running for president. The editors offer no evidence or argument in support of this claim."

    That isn't what the editorial says. It says that because these Governor's have not fulfilled their promises to their home states and yet are now running for president, they are shortchanging their states. It isn't the act of running for president that is wrong -- it is the failure to fulfill promises to the home state that is wrong.

    That means that Sanders is only shortchanging his state to the extent that he has not acted as promised during his campaign in his home state. It is very hard to argue that Sanders has not done a good job in the Senate on behalf of his constituents.

    The act of running for president is not the problem -- it is the failure to fulfill previous campaign promises that is the problem with these enumerated Republican candidates.

  4. "Tomorrow," pronounced Blogger Bob Somerby on Monday, "we’ll start examining CNBC’s journalistic performance at last Wednesday’s Republican debate."

    Here we are on Thursday, three parts into Somerby's examination.

    Despite the promise, Parts 1 and 2, all 3,677 words worth, were a discussion of columns written only partly about the debate by persons other than the CNBC journalists.

    Despite the headline of Part 3, it took Somerby 1,042 words, 60% into his third post, to get to that first question addressed to Candidate Trump by the CNBC panel.

    What did we learn before we got to that first question? What did Somerby tell us in the lead up to and during his examination of 3 parts and 4,700 + words before the first journalistic performance could be examined.

    "Candidate Cruz was basically right in his attack on the first round of questions."

    Candidate Christie told a hoary old story while Candidate Rubio dropped an "L" bomb, meanwhile "the liberal world both sat around sucking their thumbs.....stuck inside our own Salem Village, feeding urine cakes to dogs."

    In addition to producing work worthy of being compared four times to Joe McCarthy, Paul Krugman " largely failed to discuss the utterly crazy budget proposals those ten candidates have made." And so, Somerby suggested, did the moderators. "Before them stood a row of candidates with the craziest budget plans ever presented....Before them stood ten crazy plans. But the moderators engaged in mountains of drivel and oceans of snark."

    "Before them stood a collection of goons who were offering the craziest set of budget proposals in the republic's long history." But before Somerby could get to that, we had to be given four or five slaps at Politifact for hiring "college kids" and two posts about Ben Carson and Mannatech. We needed to be given insight into the affirmative action behind the panel being assembled by MSNBC. We needed to learn about the "Rosenthal gang."

    Finally we got to the first question. And what did it contain? Taxes and deficits? Yes. Oh, but it also had walls and deportation and snark.

    And what was the second question about after almost 5,400 words of wisdom from the Baltimore Blogger? We'll he covered several more questions today besides the first one to Trump. But despite how crazy these plans are in the whole history of the Republic, despite two posts on one later answer by the "goon" in second place, Somerby just did not have room to say.

    Was Candidate Carson asked about his tax plan and the budget? We'll have to wait until Part 4. Then we may find out.

    And what was he asked before "Candidate Cruz was basically right in his attack on the first round of questions."

    It wouldn't be the budget, would it Bob?

    1. Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn gives the next Dem debate moderators help with their questions:

      "• 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? "

    2. Sick word burn count. Worth your time and effort. Really hits home bravo and merci.

    3. Thanks, burn boy. We have to admit it was a techinque we learned from Bob. You admired it so often when he did it we thought we would see if it worked for us. Thanks to you we know it has.

    4. aka mutual admiration society

    5. Most importantly it puts Bob in his place and will change the course of his blog henceforth. Whom God hath doomed to destruction, he first deprives of reason.

    6. I find the responses interesting.

      Here is the second question @ 2:12 noticed Bob skipped:

      Note who asks it.

      BECKY QUICK: Dr. Carson, let’s talk about taxes. You have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes, and — I’ve looked at it — and this is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I’ve had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this. If you were to take a 10 percent tax, with the numbers right now in total personal income, you’re going to bring in $1.5 trillion. That is less than half of what we bring in right now. And by the way, it’s going to leave us in a $2 trillion hole. So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?

      Now look at something Somerby wrote:

      Despite the porridge you've been fed by apologists like Ezra Klein, William Saletan and even Kevin Drum, Becky Quick had no intention of probing the ludicrous budget plans those candidates have proposed.

      So if the three men Somerby identified can be called apologists, what can Somerby be called other than a liar?

      Oh, and you are half right @ 7:29. Bob won't change.

    7. Somtimes in comments, I project my own negativity on others.

  5. A President's duties are much more important, difficult, and pressing than a Governor's or Senator's. Following the Times's bizarre reasoning, one reaches the ridiculous conclusion that no sitting President should ever run for re-election.

    For many years, NY Times editorials have been noted for being poorly reasoned. Quite a few have an argument that essentially says, "We're the New York Times, so our posiiton is right." I don't know why their editorial writers don't do a better job. I'm sure they're not stupid, although many of the editorial sound stupid. Maybe they're too arrogant or too much in a liberal cocoon. Maybe they don't understand the counter-arguments, so they can't respond to them.


    Compare and contrast:

    Blogger Bob: To conservative voters, many acts by the mainstream press may look like acts of liberal bias.

    Blogger Ezra: "the problem for Republicans is that substantive questions about their policy proposals end up sounding like hostile attacks — but that's because the policy proposals are ridiculous, not because the questions are actually unfair."

    Blogger Bob: "Candidate Cruz was basically right in his attack on the first round of questions."

    Blogger Ezra: "Cruz's attack on the moderators was smart politics — but it was almost precisely backwards."

    Blogger Bob: "Before them stood a row of candidates with the craziest budget plans ever presented....Before them stood ten crazy plans...
    Before them stood a collection of goons who were offering the craziest set of budget proposals in the republic's long history."

    Blogger Ezra: "The Republican primary has thus far been a festival of outlandish policy. The candidates seem to be competing to craft the tax plan that gives the largest tax cut to the rich while blowing the biggest hole in the deficit (a competition that, as of tonight, Ted Cruz appears to be winning). And the problem is when you ask about those plans, simply stating the facts of the policies sounds like you're leveling a devastating attack."

  7. In the most obvious sense, Donald Trump is Dylann Roof.

    According to this disgraceful person, Mexico is “sending us” its rapists. That was an amazingly stupid and ugly presentation. During the Obama years, he stopped being a loud-mouth buffoon and became an ugly demagogue instead. The man who made those remarks, and so many others, was deranged, disgraceful, sub-human. Trump has been a noxious figure for way too many years now. Donald Trump is a deeply disgraced, repellent figure. Donald Trump has been a thoroughly degraded figure for way too many years. His public conduct has been an undisguised disgrace.

    (A) young, deranged lost soul in Charleston acted on the same deranged venom Trump had spewed the day before.

  8. This is starting to get unreal. Currently, Bernie supporters are spotting "bias" high and low. Any article they don't like simply must have been written for the sole purpose of derailing his "revolution" and automatically exposes the writer's bias. Towards conservative ideology and in some instances towards the wicked witch Hillary herself. (the current charge towards npr prior to their recent multi-part series on Bernie's life)

    I can guarantee that in 2008 if a debate moderator asked Obama questions in this manner his supporters not only would scream "bias", but would also quickly move right on to "RACIST!" as well. The "comic book" line itself probably would have shut down Twitter.

    1. Our guess? Such cluelessness from Clinton supporters may represent her “biggest problem.”

    2. What does that even mean? Is this a response to anything I;ve posted? Where am I wrong?

      Of course, I have voted Green since 2008 (the primary to remember!) and have no intention of going back given the totality of Bernie's positions (the ones liberals seem to avoid discussing at all costs). So I'm curious as to what exactly you're talking about here?

  9. "Trust us. Conservative voters do know what it means to ask a question like that. To them, Harwood's language will seem like an obvious marker of liberal bias."

    Trust us Somerby. They said the same thing about Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin:

    "Charles Gibson’s interview of Sarah Palin last night was an embarrassment to ABC, journalism in general, television news in particular, and most importantly, to Mr. Gibson himself. It was not an interview. It was a debate, a sucker-punch, loaded debate where one side got to choose the questions, interrupt the other side, and then in conclusion, score the debate and give the audience their slanted interpretation of what it all meant.

    The supposed interview was nothing more than a coast-to-coast, satellite-fed game of “gotcha.” ABC could have provided a valuable service to voters. Ms Palin is a newcomer to the national political scene and a realistic attempt to learn her views on important issues would have been very valuable. But last night there was little attempt to elicit Ms Palin’s beliefs on the problems of our time. The “interview” was dominated by loaded questions and sneers of disbelief whenever the Governor dared to give an answer not blessed by the New York-Washington liberal news cabal."

    Come to think of it Somerby sounded about the same then too. When Brother Somerby covered that interview he thought Gibson engaged in a school boy bungle with ominous portent:

    "Will Gibson’s bungle become an issue? That remains to be seen. Last night, William Kristol cited the bungle on Fox....But make no mistake; bungles of this type can and do drive our elections. In recent weeks, the McCain campaign has driven the discourse with cries of “liberal media bias” and “anti-religious sentiment”–and this is exactly the sort of thing that gives such complaints their life....Pseudo-liberals have been losing elections this way since the 1960s.
    Will Gibson’s blunder become an issue? No idea. But in recent days, pseudo-liberals have stood in line, waiting their chance to mock Palin’s religious and cultural values. Who are the real dumb ones in these exchanges? Have you had a chance to look at the drift of the polling lately?" Daily Howler September 12, 2008

  10. Yes Bob, it's an editorals, which are by definition biased. It has nothing to do with the NYTimes reporting.

    Similarly, the WSJ has for decades had the most bizarrely strange, neo-con, right wing editorials this side of the NY Post, but (at least until the Murdoch purchase), that in no way reflected on their dry, serious and even handed reporting.

    Carry on.

  11. Anyone who stands up, says he's going to cut taxes $11 trillion dollars and claims it's not going to effect the deficit needs to be publicly ridiculed. It's the kind of "thinking" that has, and will continue to bring this great country down.

    1. How can you ridicule a man so briliant compared to the incompetence of others than he can make such a claim, then flap his arms and fly away from the rest of the Republican Presidential field?

  12. Just imagine the vigilantes armed and knocking down doors when President Trump gives the order to begin rounding up the illegals. The cattle cars filled with the elderly, women and children, and the Sonora desert refugee camps/compounds that go as far as the eye can see.

    1. In the most obvious sense, Donald Trump is Dylann Roof.

      How dare a legacy reporter suggest he is running a comic book version of a Predisential campaign.