Opinion: Bachmann, Paul and Huntsman Unfairly Excluded from Debate Questions

Monday, November 14, 2011 - 12:18 PM

Think what you will about Ron Paul or Michele Bachmann or Jon Huntsman, they all have a legitimate point in their complaint that they were deliberately left out of the CBS debate on Saturday night.

The problems began early in the day. Dave Weigel reports, in an unfairly titled piece "Michele Bachmann wants special treatment": "At 2:42 p.m., [Bachmann's press handler Alice Stewart] was accidentally cc'd on a planning email from [new CBS News's political director John Dickerson], about a Bachmann availability tonight.

"Okay," he wrote, "let's keep it loose though since she's not going to get many questions and she's nearly off the charts in the hopes that we can get someone else.""

Weigel takes issue with the release of the email at 10pm, in a Facebook posting from the Bachmann campaign, which implied the email was received while Bachmann was onstage. Still, whatever the language used by the campaign to release the email for maximum impact the fact remains that Bachmann, and the other non-frontrunner candidates were unfairly treated.

Following the debate Ron Paul supporters complained that he only got 89 seconds to speak while Jon Huntsman's daughters tweeted: "Does anyone find it weird that the only candidate with FP experience on stage was given two minutes? There are no words. Disappointed CBS."

They are all right.

It's one thing to use poll numbers to decide whom to invite to a debate. We need some sort of metric so that we don't have 400 candidates on a debate stage. But once the candidates are on the stage it's not right to exclude them from the questions based on these poll numbers. This kind of action may actually impact those polls. Standing next to the people the network has arbitrarily chosen as the real candidates and not getting any questions can lower the standing of a candidate in the polls. The question then becomes: is the network reading the polls or affecting the polls?

Even before all these troubles, though, the debate seemed like amateur hour. Ben Smith described the debate itself as having a "confusing format--the televised portion for most of the nation ended after an hour and viewers were expected to go to the Internet to see the final 30 minutes — led to widespread frustration among those following the debate." People complained of choppy reception on the internet airing and twitter was ablaze with angry debate-watchers.

Ultimately, it didn't seem like CBS took their debate-airing responsibilities seriously enough. It's too bad because the questions for this debate were serious and interesting. If only CBS felt that people deserved to hear the answers--from all the candidates.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.


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Comments [9]


Through many years of observation I've come to the conclusion that whenever more than two people are involved, there's no way to distribute anything between them which all would agree to as 'fair'.

Though I'm surely unqualified to attempt a rigorous, formal 'proof', I suspect there's a parallel to, say, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle or, perhaps, Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness proof which can be applied to the concept of 'fairness'.

If you wish a simple thought experiment, consider three people trying to divide a dollar. A says to B, 'Let's split 50/50.' C says to A, 'Forget B. Split 60/40 with me.' And so it goes.

Nov. 16 2011 08:03 AM
Louis Nardozi from Pensacola

Hi Everyone,

The RNC has been complicit in the marginalization of Dr. Paul, as well as the media blackout. We all know this. I have set up a little website to bring attention to this fact and to help Dr. Paul. It is not the kind of thing he would do (in fact he couldn't even acknowledge it without being summarily expelled from the GOP), but it IS the kind of thing I would do, ESPECIALLY after the last debate where Dr. Paul got a whole 90 seconds to speak. This must stop and by God it WILL stop, and YOU'RE going to help me stop it!

Go to and sign up please, and spread the word. I set up the site myself it has no ads and no profit, just a labor of love in defense of Dr. Paul.

Nov. 15 2011 08:29 PM
Karol from NYC

Torus, I believe that but it's generally not the front-runners making entertainment at these debates. CBS seems to have been trying for some subjective kind of "fairness" and failed at it.

Nov. 15 2011 10:58 AM


Thank you for the campaign speech.

Just to clarify though, when you say Ron Paul wants to "remove decision...from the federal government and place them on you and your neighbors", what is actually meant is Ron Paul wants to the states to have the decision. Time after time he has shown himself not as a libertarian but as a states rights advocate.

When you say "will remove the overbearing restrictions/taxation that is driving countless American businesses and their jobs/money into international markets", what you're talking about is the regulation that keeps water clean, lead out of our children's toys, and the corporate tax levels that in fact with all the loopholes are the lowest they've been since the 1920's. So if you want to risk more fracking chemicals getting into the water, and make it easier for China to send lead paint here, vote Ron Paul.

When you say Ron Paul "will limit the Federal Reserve from simply printing money and continually devaluing your hard earned paycheck", you're leaving out the point that Ron Paul has been on record saying we should just get rid of it. As much as their "printing money" raises eventual inflation risks, the bigger problem now has been avoiding the massive deflation that would have come along with a Depression size contraction. It is because of the Fed's easy money policy that we haven't crashed into a Depression. Ron Paul's solution is to go the Herbert Hoover route. It didn't work then, it won't work now.

Ron Paul isn't a serious candidate, he's just an ideologue running to put his far out ideas out there. And not even a consistent one, as his constituents have benefited from pork spending put on bills that he knew would pass regardless of his ideological vote.

Nov. 15 2011 10:34 AM

It's worth noting that CBS is a profit-making corporation. As such, its primary goal -- in fact, its raison d'être -- is the making of money for its owners. It is a capitalist enterprise. I would hazard a guess that in its charter there isn't a single statement about 'fairness'.

CBS did what it considered as being in the best interest of its owners -- provide an entertaining show for the viewers. [Hint: For TV shows, viewers = revenue.] If that required putting those candidates who were the current rage front and center, so be it.

If I understand correctly, a free market implies that if people are dissatisfied with one provider, they are free to go to another who more nearly approximates their requirements.

Perhaps the program would be better carried by the 'Fair and balanced(r)' folk or, barring that, PBS.

Nov. 15 2011 08:30 AM
Ed Howard

By any measure, the debate times/questions allotted are skewed. If a candidate is at 10% in the polls (skewed as they are), the candidate ought to get at least 10% of the time. Ron Paul would get 8-10% of the time. While 5-6 minutes isn't much, it is 3-4 times the 1.5 he got.

Why we do not believe the media polls.

1. When these polls of "likely voters" are conducted, many RP supporters are eliminated because they don't fit the "Likely Voter" profile. So RP supporters are likely under-represented in the pool of "likely voters".

2. Media polling numbers assume RP supporters are no more likely to show up to vote than other candidate supporters.

Reality check -

The media discounts Ron Paul victories in straw polls claiming RP's strong/ardent supporter base manifests itself in a disproportionat ely LARGE number of RP supporters voting in straw polls.

The media discounts RP online poll victories - claiming RP's strong/ardent supporter base manifests itself in a disproportionat ely LARGE number of RP supporters voting in online polls.

Yet when this same media reports the results of phone polls, they pretend these same Ron Paul supporters are no more likely to vote than other voters.

The fact is Ron Paul's ardent/strong supporters will show up in disproportionat ely larger numbers for primaries & caucuses ALSO.

Keep the faith!

Nov. 15 2011 12:15 AM
Derek Wain

"An email from a CBS producer who predicted that Bachmann would not receive many questions from moderators Scott Pelley and Major Garrett."
The email is not a "supposed smoking gun" It proves that CBS intended their anti-Bachmann bias to do what they in fact did: ask Bachmann fewer (60%) questions than asked of Romney and Gingrich.
When you predict what in fact you do, then it proves intent, in this case intent of bias.

Nov. 14 2011 08:43 PM
Harrison Bergeron from NYC


Yes, I like Ron Paul also. He is the only candidate talking common sense, (as he was four years ago). People like that don't get elected. We almost always elect cheer leaders who say words that make the voters feel good but don't follow up on them once in office. Reagan and Obama are two notable examples.


The campaign process including the debates are good if they alert people to issues and cause them to think about actions our government takes here and around the world.

Other than that, the presidential campaign process is a hoax. Read the US Constitution, Article II, Section 1, describing the "electors". Perhaps you -- having been involved in politics -- can actually name some of the electors, but it is a mystery to the general public. I have never been able to find out the actual names of any of these people, nor do I understand how they are actually chosen, but suspect that it is by poitical connections.

I'm still happy to be here in the USA. But I am sceptical as to the real effect of the political campaigns on the majority of the population. I suspect that popular movements such as the Tea Party and #occupy, (likely now becomming allied with labor unions), will have greater and longer term consequences.


Nov. 14 2011 06:05 PM

There is a true and undeniable danger in the direction that our monetary and economic situation is slipping, and the roots of the problem lie much deeper than a half-hearted and shallow political gesture can repair.

There is only one candidate that offers the TRUE SOLUTIONS that all real and true Americans should be able to stand behind.

The ONLY candidate that want to END THE WARS that have our young men and women continually leaving home on 4, 5 or 6 tours of duty without a true sense of victory.

The ONLY candidate that has the economic experience and foresight to have predicted and repeatedly warned congress of the bursting bubbles of the housing market, the dollar and the stock market.

The ONLY candidate that is a protector of you personal and individual liberties willing to remove decision making of issues like abortion, gay rights and the search for personally acceptable medical services and treatments from the federal government and place them on you and your neighbors to decide what works for you.

The ONLY candidate that will remove the overbearing restrictions/taxation that is driving countless American businesses and their jobs/money into international markets.

The ONLY candidate that will limit the Federal Reserve from simply printing money and continually devaluing your hard earned paycheck.

The ONLY candidate that is not concerned with which side of the aisle you are on and only concerned with the country that our forefathers envisioned when they wrote the most important documents to mankind and man’s desire to be free and unshackled by government control.

This isn’t red against blue or me against you. This is fundamentally what is right against what is wrong and which direction we will decide to go. And I stress WE.

There is a unity that attainable when great challenges present themselves. A pride that is seen at a 4th of July celebration, heard in a Strauss composition or felt when we remove our hats and sing our National Anthem at a baseball game.

The pill may be bigger than some wish to swallow, but we must not make the same mistake as our parents by foregoing the pinch of a solution for the comfort of relinquishing our responsibly and accountability and merely passing it off to our children and grandchildren.

These are real problems that cannot be circumvented any longer and require action now. Unfortunately red and/or blue have offered you more of the same spending and oppressive debt that lead us into this mess.

That is why my candidate is neither red nor blue. He offers me solutions that all Americans should be able to support and is emblazoned with the colors of red, white and blue!

We don’t need a democratic solution, nor a republican solution. We need an American solution! Don’t get lost or mislead by the things being fed to you as true in the media or an opinion formulated by anyone other than yourself. The time has come and the need is urgent.

Ron Paul 2012!

Nov. 14 2011 12:38 PM

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