The final lineup for Thursday’s debate is nearly set, as well as the five o’clock “pregame show” with the poorly performing candidates, and Mark Everson is objecting to the fact that he doesn’t seem to be included at all. In fact, he has written a letter to Fox News to complain about it. Wait a minute… Mark who?
Yes, he’s a declared candidate for the presidency who has filed all the required paperwork. But just to be fully honest here, I do this for a living and I had to Google the guy. He declared back in March and has established the infrastructure for a campaign online. The guy isn’t a joke or fringe candidate. He’s a former IRS commissioner under George W. Bush, but his only moment of notoriety which turned up on a quick search was when Ed noted that he had visited the White House precisely once during his entire tenure at the agency. (Ah, you sort of miss the days when we didn’t have to think about the IRS so much, don’t you?)
But back to the subject at hand, Everson claims that Fox is violating their own rules for who can or can’t grab a podium Thursday night. (USA Today)
Former IRS commissioner Mark Everson, a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, will file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday alleging that he is being unfairly excluded from the first debate, he told USA TODAY.
Everson is arguing that election law requires debate organizers to set “pre-established and objective standards” for inclusion, and that Fox News has not met that requirement for Thursday’s debate in Cleveland.
“Media coverage is the oxygen of politics,” Everson said, “and I am being denied that by Fox and its intervention in the political process.” Everson launched his campaign in March and has been making regular appearances in Iowa and other states with early contests.
This ongoing story, highlighted by Everson, is something of a clash between reality and technicalities. The reality is that there are a dizzying number of people who have officially declared themselves to be candidates. You simply can’t get them all on one stage for a debate unless it’s the size of a football stadium. There had to be a cutoff, even for the kid’s table forum, and somebody wasn’t going to make it.
But Everson is also making a valid point. The idea of establishing the cutoff line based on the polls was rather sketchy to begin with, but at least it created some sort of a bar that the hopefuls had to meet. But then they removed the 1% requirement and changed it to all declared candidates whose names are consistently being offered to respondents in major national polls. Once that happened, the objection being raised by the former IRS Commissioner came into focus with a lot more credibility. The poll number requirement, while limited in viability and nearly meaningless for those down near the margin of error, at least provided some input from the voters of the nation. Once you change the definition to the names being offered by the pollsters you’ve essentially handed a knife to a dozen or so unelected polling company honchos and let them cull the field single handed. And Everson isn’t the only one complaining, by the way. Marist – one of the more respected polling firms in the nation – has stopped polling the GOP primary field until after the debates in protest of the way they are being handled.
That brings us back to that ungodly long list of declared candidates. Sure, some of them are probably cranks who are doing it on a lark but there are obviously a lot of people there who honestly want to serve and have some ideas (no matter what you may think of them) which they would like to present to the public for consideration. But as Everson said, without either a lot of money or some access to the cable news media empire, nobody will ever know.
I don’t have a solution to offer for this one, but I can at least sympathize to a degree with Everson’s point. The system is messy to an almost intolerable degree. But for now it looks like we’ll push forward with what we have.