At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made an important point about the debate format. He interrupted the bickering of his Republican rivals to reveal the media’s underlying motive: Setting up candidates to snipe at one another is a way to carry the water for President Obama.
Debate moderators did their best to stoke conflict. Politico’s John Harris asked Mr. Gingrich to pick “the better end of this argument” between Mr. Romney’s health care plan and that of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The Georgia Republican refused, saying, “I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other.” The audience cheered.
Then Mr. Gingrich exposed the game. “I, for one, and I hope all of my friends up here, are going to repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama, who deserves to be defeated,” he said. “All of us are committed as a team. Whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama.”
Mr. Gingrich was not alone in this sentiment, as Mitt Romney has been saying the same thing on the campaign trail.
“I know that our Democratic friends, they’re going to try and tear us down, make it look like we’re at each other’s throats,” the former Massachusetts governor said on Monday at a pancake breakfast in New Hampshire. “The truth of the matter is, on that stage up there when I debated last time, I looked around and I said, ‘I’d rather have any one of those fellas and gal than the person that’s in the White House right now. I’ll work for them, will fight for them.’”
Herman Cain’s communications director, Ellen Carmichael, told The Washington Times, “Mr. Cain is a true disciple of President Reagan’s 11th Commandment. Even when others have attacked him, he has chosen to remain focused on distinguishing himself based on his values and vision, as well as his more than 40 years creating jobs in the private sector.” Several of the other candidates applauded the former House speaker’s sentiments.
Of course, a primary contest for the highest political office in the land requires a thorough examination of the records and policies of each aspirant. That’s the only way to assure the strongest candidate advances to take on Mr. Obama in the general election. The process should not be driven by those in the media looking to boost ratings and help “The One” coast to a second term.
The GOP candidates should refuse to take the bait. The next time they’re asked to respond in 30 seconds to a set-up question, they should use the time to remind voters who is to blame for the nation’s messes. Any of the candidates would do a better job than this president. They are all conservatives looking to shrink the size of government so that the economy can recover.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.