Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The "BS" In PBS

J.C. Watts and Newt Gingrich think the Republican presidential top-tier is making a mistake by skipping the PBS-run debate at Morgan State University this week - and Admiral Ed agrees with them:
A former member of the House Republican congressional leadership - and the last African-American to serve as a member of the GOP in Congress - harshly criticized Tuesday the decision of the Republican presidential front-runners to not attend a debate focused on minority issues.

"I think the best that comes out of stupid decisions like this," said former Oklahoma Representative J.C. Watts, is "that African-Americans might say is, 'Was it because of my skin color?' Now, maybe it wasn't, but African-Americans do say, 'It crossed my mind.'"

All [three] GOP presidential front-runners -- former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, ...., former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson - have said they will not attend a PBS debate at a historically black college in Baltimore hosted by Tavis Smiley.

The invitations were extended in March, but the front-runners have claimed scheduling conflicts. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who's weighing getting into the race, called that excuse "baloney" and called the no-shows "fundamentally wrong." On Good Morning America today, Gingrich said GOP candidates are making a mistake because "African-Americans have been hurt more by the failures of government" than any other group.
Their argument boils down to one of "engagement" with black voters - if Republicans ever hope to convince black Americans to switch to their "brand," they will have to make a significant - more likely, herculean - effort to "reach out" to them with a conservative message that many would look upon favorably once Donk brainwashing was overcome. Attending the Morgan State confab would be a step in that direction.

That sounds reasonable, at least in principle and seen in isolation. However, Jim Geraghty, who debated Morrissey on this topic yesterday, added some immediate context to Fred's, Mitt's, and Rudy's decision:
Problem One: It’s on PBS - As one Republican strategist told me earlier this year, “our voters watch Fox News.” The last Republican debate on Fox News drew a 2.2 rating and 2.47 million households (UPDATE 3.14 million viewers.) I haven’t been able to find the ratings for the AARP debate on PBS last week, but I suspect the audience was tiny; it certainly didn’t make much of a splash in the news.

All of these candidates have an immediate and pressing goal, to win over Republican primary voters. Never mind whether the topic is one that is important to those groups of voters; the venue is one they don't watch.
As is so often the case in life, practical considerations tend to take precedence. For GOP presidential hopefuls, there's little or no point in participating in a "debate" that Republican primary voters are highly unlike to watch because of the broadcast venue, and which will never be reported on favorably through the Enemy Media filter. It would be pandering literally gone to waste.
Problem two: It’s at the end of the fundraising cycle - This doesn’t prevent every candidate from every debate invitation, but the organizers of this debate had to know this when they set the date. One might even suspect they picked the time of year candidates were least likely to show up. Appearing at this debate will take them away from a fundraiser, and several of these guys need to collect every last dollar before the deadline to avoid the “he’s toast” buzz. [emphasis added]
In other words, a set-up either way (see "Problem Four" below).

Problem three: There are too darn many of these debates - ....[A]s noted at the link above, it’s not like this is the only debate the top Republican candidates are turning down – they turned down the ValuesVoter event as well. Is this a sign of anti-Christian attitudes in the GOP's frontrunners? Come on, it says the opportunity cost of participating in that debate was too high.
True; but then it's not nearly as likely that evangelicals will go on the warpath against their own for such an insignificant "snub," too.

Now we get to paydirt:
Problem four: Moderator Tavis Smiley - ....[W]hen asked about Republicans not showing up for this debate, Smiley responded, "When you reject every black invitation and every brown invitation you receive, is that a scheduling issue or is it a pattern?... I don't believe anybody should be elected president of the United States if they think along the way they can ignore people of color. That's just not the America we live in."

When you pretty much accuse candidates of racism before they walk in the door, that doesn't make them more inclined to accept your invitation.
Smiley wasn't quite as candid as one of The View cunts, who cracked that Thompson, Romney, and Giuliani REALLY couldn't make the Morgan State confab because "they were busy at a Klan meeting at the same time," but his words were in the same ballpark. Which reinforces the notion that this "debate" was another trap best avoided, and that we should find better ways & means to "engage" "African America".

To my knowledge there's no direct connection between that story and this one, but I find the similarities to be quite educational:
The White House reached out to National Public Radio over the weekend, offering analyst Juan Williams a presidential interview to mark yesterday's 50th anniversary of school desegregation in Little Rock.

But NPR turned down the interview, and Williams's talk with Bush wound up in a very different media venue: Fox News.

Williams said yesterday he was "stunned" by NPR's decision. "It makes no sense to me. President Bush has never given an interview in which he focused on race. . . . I was stunned by the decision to turn their backs on him and to turn their backs on me."

Ellen Weiss, NPR's vice president for news, said she "felt strongly" that "the White House shouldn't be selecting the person." She said NPR told Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, that "we're grateful for the opportunity to talk to the President but we wanted to determine who did the interview." When the White House said the offer could not be transferred to one of NPR's program hosts, Weiss took a pass.
I guess my gut reaction to this is to wonder why in Frigg's name Dubya "reached out" to NPR in the first place. Unless, of course, he calculated he'd get this kind of response so that when he did the Williams interview on Fox instead, he could say, "Well, we tried...." I highly doubt that, but at least that way the decision would have been at least somewhat palatable.

The educational part is that here was an instance of a Republican president doing precisely what J.C. Watts and Mr. Newt and the Admiral criticize the 2008 GOP presidential field for not doing - reaching out to black voters via PBS - and PBS told Dubya to go pound sand, ostensibly over the White House designating the interviewer, as though Juan Williams (the author of two books on race-related topics) isn't conversent on the topic, and a lot moreso than Melissa Block, the host of All Things Distorted.

Probably their beef with Williams is that he works for FoxNews, so that "taints" him. That and having been hand-picked by the Left's "Great Satan". It just goes to show that in order to "engage" black Americans, Republicans will need a vehicle that doesn't have a vested interest in steering their attempts into the PR ditch.