Part 1—May look like billionaire bias: In this morning's New York Times, a delusional column appears.
The column was written by Patrick Stewart, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas. He quickly describes his hallucinations, speaking in praise of the "gotcha questions" at the October 28 GOP debate.
Professor Stewart seems to need help. This is what he thinks he saw when he watched that two-hour evasion of substance:
STEWART (11/9/15): You would think people running for office would be happy to get all that free media attention. Yet many Republicans have condemned the debates, especially what they call “gotcha” questions. In a letter to NBC News after the recent CNBC debate, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote that moderators had “engaged in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and meanspirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.”Based on that passage, we think we can say the following things about the professor's delusions:
Yes, some viewers tune in to compare policy positions and review candidates’ experience. But many more tune in for the spectacle of “presidential survivor” in which the most quick-witted, social-media-savvy candidate moves to center stage. More important, the probing questions and the frenzied media coverage they drive are good for democracy. By knocking candidates off their talking points, these questions make the endless cycle of debates worth watching for citizens—and possibly even revelatory.
The gotcha questions—the Republican candidates define that term very loosely to include challenges on experience, policy positions and the ability to do elementary (but not Common Core) arithmetic—are in the mind of the beholder. More accurately, they are often in the excuses of the unprepared or poorly performing candidate.
Professor Stewart seems to think he saw "probing questions" at that debate. He seems to think those probing questions extended to the candidates' "policy positions," even to their "ability to do elementary arithmetic."
Based on the questioning at the debate, the professor apparently thinks the challenge concerning basic math involved the candidates' budget proposals. He seems to think he saw the candidates "knocked off their talking points" by the moderators' probing questions.
The hallucinations continue. The professor seems to think that those probing questions have produced "frenzied media coverage" in the twelve days since that debate. As part of this delusional package, he thinks the moderators' questions "make the endless cycle of debates worth watching for citizens—and possibly even revelatory."
Question: Did anything like that actually happen concerning those budget proposals? That question is highly significant for an obvious reason.
The candidates who stood on that stage have brought forth the craziest set of budget proposals in the nation's long history. One day before the October 28 debate, one of the candidates, Candidate Kasich, said exactly that, in a highly unusual, impassioned press event.
"Crazy," Kasich repeatedly said, referring to the budget proposals of Candidates Carson and Trump. And make no mistake:
Judged by any normal standard, crazy is exactly what those budget proposals are. This leads us to our questions about the professor's health.
The professor thinks he saw probing questions about policy matters at that recent debate. He thinks those questions knocked the candidates off their talking points. He seems to think that this has have led to frenzied media coverage.
Did anything like that actually happen with respect to those "crazy" budget proposals? Has anything like that actually happened in the twelve days since the debate?
In our view, nothing like that actually happened, in the debate or since, concerning those budget proposals. Consider:
At the debate, Candidate Rubio was asked about the distributional benefits of his tax cuts—tax cuts which total an astonishing $6.1 trillion over ten years. In response, Rubio dissembled in an embarrassing way, after which he was thanked by moderator John Harwood.
Since the debate, how much discussion have you seen of Rubio's blatant dissembling? We've seen zero discussion of that, or of the trillions he would distribute in tax cuts. We've seen much more discussion of the $133 he once spent at an upscale barbershop.
Also, consider this:
Candidate Carson offered the gibberish shown below during that strange debate. It was part of his apparent claim that federal revenues wouldn't be reduced by a single tax rate of 15 percent:
CARSON (10/28/15): Let me just say, if you're talking about an $18 trillion economy, you're talking about a 15 percent tax on your gross domestic product. You're talking about $2.7 trillion.Do you have any idea what that means? Frankly, we do not.
We have a budget closer to $3.5 trillion. But if you also apply that same 15 percent to several other things, including corporate taxes, and including the capital gains taxes, you make that amount up pretty quickly. So that is not by any stretch a pie in the sky.
Last Tuesday, Josh Barro actually addressed that gibberish in the New York Times, or at least he tried or pretended to do so. We've seen no one else make the attempt.
Good for Barro! For our money, he worked a bit too hard to avoid describing that bafflegab (which he quoted) as simple gibberish. But in the process, he noted another problem with Carson's policy presentations that night:
BARRO (11/3/15): Becky Quick, one of the moderators, asked how [Carson] planned to finance the government with a 10 percent tax based on tithing, even though that would bring in less than half as much revenue as the federal government collects today.Rather plainly, Carson did seem to have prescribed a single, 10 percent tax rate. He seemed to do so at the first GOP debate! And it was on TV!
Mr. Carson disclaimed that idea. “Well, first of all, I didn’t say that the rate would be 10 percent,” he told Ms. Quick.
Well, actually, he did. At the first Republican debate, he described the plan as follows: “You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one.” But anyway, Mr. Carson now doesn’t think a 10 percent rate is workable, and said the rate would have to be closer to 15 percent.
That said, with what "probing question" was Carson confronted when he denied that he'd said such a thing? "I understand that," Quick instantly said, affirming his bogus statement.
Candidate Carson's budget gibberish bordered on the less-than-sane at that recent debate. But if you think you saw him challenged by the moderators that night, you're as delusional as the professor seems to be.
Nor has Carson been challenged on his bafflegab or his budget nonsense in the twelve days since that debate. Our journalists have been talking about who he did and didn't attempt to stab in the 1960s, not about his crazy budget proposal or his budget bafflegab.
Can we talk? Those candidates have offered the craziest budget proposals in the history of the republic. Meanwhile, that debate was staged by CNBC, a cable channel which is alleged to specialize in financial/business/budget affairs.
The stage was set for a major battle, even an Armageddon. But despite the professor's column, that battle never occurred.
All this week, we'll look at the way those moderators, and the rest of the press, have avoided discussing the craziness of those budget proposals. And uh-oh! Because the craziness of those plans concerns their giveaways to the massively wealthy, we'd have to say that this silence may start to look like an expression of plutocrat bias.
Our journalists discuss the hundreds of dollars spent at a barbershop. They avoid the trillions handed to millionaire and billionaires in those budget plans!
Those plans are "crazy," Kasich said. The numbers strongly support that claim. When journalists refuse to discuss this particular version of The Crazy, a cynic will say that they may be expressing a tilt toward plutocrat bias.
Tax cuts si, haircuts no? What explains that puzzling tilt? We'll puzzle about that all week long. But the tilt is pernicious, widespread.
Tomorrow: The refusal to focus, challenge, confront