Thursday, November 29, 2007


This morning, Republicans are squealing in unison like stuck pigs (actually, when are they not?) because the retired brigadier general who asked a question at last night's debate about allowing gays to serve openly in the military has been identified as a Hillary Clinton supporter, and because it turns out that a couple of other questioners support Democratic candidates.

Excuse me, did I miss something? Wasn't this a debate among people who want to be president of the United States -- not president of the Republican Party? If one of these men actually does become president, will he not be president of Democrats who live in this country, too? Aren't Democrats still legally defined as American citizens?

Really, what is the problem? Regardless of who asked them, was there something wrong with the questions? Did they have Democratic cooties on them -- cooties that could cause a horrible reaction that wouldn't have taken place if the same questions had been asked (as they could have been asked) by Republicans or independents? Weren't the questions (and the candidates' answers) the whole point of the exercise?

At National Review Online, Jim Geraghty asks,

So, Can Republicans Ask Questions at the Next Democratic Debate?

Why the hell not?

In fact, it might be interesting if all the questions at the next Democratic debate came from Republicans -- and vice versa. It might be even more interesting if all the candidates debated together, or if we had one big non-partisan primary, or series of primaries, to pick the top two vote-getters for the general election. I actually think, in that case, the Democrats would be saying pretty much what they're saying now -- but maybe the Republicans wouldn't be trying to outdo one another describing how physically ill the notion of tax increases makes them or imagining how many people they'd like to waterboard.

CNN is abashed:

David Bohrman, a CNN senior vice president and executive producer of the debate, later said: "We regret this and apologize to the Republican candidates. We never would have used the general's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."

But why even have that rule? Sure, screen for affiliation if you want to limit the number of questions from opposite-party partisans, and maybe it would be a good idea to try to keep the number of such questions equal in the parties' debates -- but why not overtly allow them? Democrats are citizens. So are Republicans. You don't lose your citizenship when you join a party or endorse a candidate. So let partisans ask questions. Or do we just want to make the partisan "He's not my president" bumper stickers of the Clinton and Bush eras the law of the land?

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