Video: Newt wins the debate … against the moderators

posted at 9:25 am on September 8, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier, I wrote that the Republican frontrunners won’t soon push Newt Gingrich out of the primary debates after his second attack in as many events on the moderators, and here’s why. Greg Hengler brings us the clip from last night’s debate where Gingrich rips into NBC’s Brian Williams and Politico’s John Harris for their attempts to create rhetorical mountains out of insubstantial molehills of differences in the policy positions between the GOP candidates, declaring himself uninterested in “puffing up” attempts to make Republicans fight each other in order to take the focus off of Barack Obama:

The Boss Emeritus has an interesting point in disagreeing with Newt:

Debates are supposed to be illuminating, vigorous exchanges of ideas and vetting of records. (Unlike Newt “The Peacemaker” Gingrich, I find NOTHING wrong with internal battles between candidates over policy and ideology.) In the end, of course, politicians are all still…politicians. The Big Biz/Big Govt rent-seeking racket never ends.

It’s still worth it to put them up on stage and make them defend and explain their flips, flops, and double-half-twists.

I agree, but Gingrich did have a point.  Every question from the two moderators to both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney seemed to be a rephrasing of the same basic question — “Tell us why your state sucks.”  From the opening bell, Harris and especially Williams seemed to take their cues from Team Obama talking points, and that was nowhere more true than when Perry got quizzed about education.  Instead of asking a pertinent question like “What kind of involvement in education will the federal government have under your administration” — a question fraught with enough peril for Republicans in both the primary and general elections — the moderators prefaced their questions with a series of unsourced and cherry-picked statistics in order to create a “when did you stop beating your wife” context for their eventual question.  The two did much the same on health insurance, and in this case they talked about the ratio of uninsured without ever talking about the insurance rates for policyholders in comparing Texas and Massachusetts, which have soared in the latter and has insurers bailing out.

Jazz Shaw, writing at Pajamas Media, also tweaks the moderators:

The biggest question may not have been what the two “top dogs” might say, or what those trailing might do to get ahead, but how the moderators would handle it. That answer came quickly when Brian Williams turned the first two questions — directed to Rick Perry and Mitt Romney — into six or seven additions before anyone else got a chance to speak. Each query was an accusation. First, Perry was hammered about the number of new jobs in Texas which were minimum wage. Romney got the next dip at the fountain, asking why his state was 47th in job creation.

These questions were clearly fair game, but the phrasing and tone of the moderator made them seem far more akin to a scene from the Spanish Inquisition. Honestly, by the end of the evening I had lost track of the number of questions which were far less solicitations of opinion and policy than accusations. It was as if Brian Williams and company were looking for the candidates to apologize for being conservatives. As the night progressed, it became clear that the hosts would be severely disappointed.

Jazz also called Perry the clear winner:

As debates go, this was actually a good one in spite of the moderators. The candidates were put through their paces and given a fair opportunity to shine. But unlike the previous engagements we’ve witnessed, this one seemed to have a clear winner. Rick Perry came out looking the most presidential, while Mitt Romney appeared to be searching for a way to recover from the upstart’s sudden popularity. How that will translate in the general election remains to be seen, but for one Wednesday night at the Reagan Library, Governor Rick Perry raised the bar in this primary to a new level.

Clearly, NBC and Politico did not.  But Newt Gingrich may have a spot on the debate stage long after he runs out of gas otherwise if he keeps attacking the media rather than the frontrunners.

Addendum: I’ll agree and disagree with Michelle on another point:

Pet peeve: Why are the GOP front-runners all still bragging about their records “creating jobs.” Get it straight and be consistent. Government — federal or state — does not “create jobs.” Governors do not “create jobs.”

Private individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies innovate.

Private individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies take risks.

Private individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies create jobs. Create capital. Create wealth and prosperity.

Not government. Not governors.

She’s right about job creation in direct terms, of course.  However, governments and executives do a great deal to shape the economic environment for job creation.  They decide on regulatory aggressiveness, for instance, and decide whether to block or pass legislation that gets in the way of job creation.  “Creating jobs” is a shorthand way of talking about this, and let’s face it, we score the executives by the results of the job-creation numbers.  We’re doing that with Barack Obama now; I don’t hear anyone on our side blaming entrepreneurs and businesses for not hiring under the Obama administration’s economic environment.  The answers given by the candidates indicate that they understand the difference, and I’m comfortable with the shorthand.

Update: Uninterested, not uninteresting.  Thanks to reader MC for correcting my typo.

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