Boehner: Raising Taxes Not an Option

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April 13, 2011, 9:04 a.m.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), while wait­ing in the se­cur­ity line at Re­agan Nat’l Air­port 10/8, dis­cussed with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) “which se­cur­ity line he pre­ferred.” Franken “cracked that he en­joys the line where they pat you down, ‘the way my mar­riage is go­ing these days’” (New York Post, 10/12).

All In Good Fun

“For the past few years,” of­fi­cials in Ata­scosa Co. in TX “have been send­ing out ab­sent­ee bal­lot pack­ages that in­clude a page with a flag proudly dis­played in a wavy mo­tion.” The “only trouble is, it’s the Chilean flag,” not the TX flag.

Ph.D. stu­dent Troy Knud­son “was the first to no­tice the mis­take and alert of­fi­cials.” Knud­son, in email: “Ap­par­ently the in­sert has been used for some time without any­one (voters and staff) no­ti­cing. I guess it’s funny in some way, but my ini­tial re­ac­tion was more dis­be­lief that no one had no­ticed.”

Ata­scosa Co. elec­tions ad­min. Janice Ruple: “I don’t think it’s funny. It’s a ser­i­ous thing.” Ruple “blamed the wo­man who held the job be­fore her for the flag mix-up and “said she had no idea how long the flag of Chile had been there be­fore she took of­fice.”

Ruple also “said her pre­de­cessor took oth­er liber­ties with the bal­lots.” Ruple: “She used to put in ex­tra stuff.” A “copy of an in­sert that came” with an ab­sent­ee bal­lot “showed a sample bal­lot with mock can­did­ates for county com­mis­sion­er: ‘Black Jack Per­sh­ing,‘ ‘Jean LaFitte‘ and ‘Dav­ey Crock­ett.’” Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­ans in TX and TN, “there’s no ‘e’ in Davy” (Eaton, Aus­tin Amer­ic­an-States­man, 10/11).

Let me lay out a scen­ario. A can­did­ate run­ning for pres­id­ent holds fed­er­al elect­ive of­fice, has run for pres­id­ent be­fore, is thought­ful and thinks out­side the box on a num­ber of is­sues, has the ca­pa­city to raise a ton of grass­roots dol­lars, fin­ished strong in the Iowa straw vote this sum­mer, is cur­rently run­ning in the top three in nearly every na­tion­al poll, and is polling second in both the Iowa caucus and the New Hamp­shire primary. Hmmm, seems like a fact set where you would be taken ser­i­ously. But not if you are Ron Paul.

At the re­cent Na­tion­al Journ­al/CBS de­bate held in South Car­o­lina, this could not have been clear­er. The con­tro­versy over CBS Polit­ic­al Dir­ect­or John Dick­er­son’s in­ad­vert­ent e-mail to a spokes­wo­man for Michele Bach­mann, and the ex­plan­a­tion af­ter­ward, re­vealed that the ques­tion and time al­lot­ment strategy was de­term­ined by the can­did­ates’ stand­ing in the polls. It is my un­der­stand­ing de­bate or­gan­izers based their de­cisions on a CBS News poll re­leased sev­er­al days be­fore the de­bate. Her­man Cain led the field at 18 per­cent, fol­lowed closely by Mitt Rom­ney and Newt Gin­grich, each of whom had 15 per­cent. Paul placed fifth with 5 per­cent of the vote, be­hind Rick Perry, who had 8 per­cent. ele Bach­mann had 4 per­cent, Rick San­tor­um 2 per­cent, and Jon Hunts­man 1 per­cent.

Some of you may ques­tion this as a meth­od for or­gan­iz­ing a de­bate, but it does have some lo­gic and reas­on­able­ness about it. Based on this ap­par­ent strategy, Ron Paul should def­in­itely have had plenty of time to ar­tic­u­late his po­s­i­tions on for­eign policy is­sues.

Did the 11-term Texas con­gress­man get the second- or even third-most al­lot­ted time — which is what you would guess based on an ef­fort to call on can­did­ates in or­der of their stand­ing in the polls? Hardly. In the hour of the de­bate aired na­tion­ally, Paul got the least amount of time of any of the eight can­did­ates. That’s right: He fin­ished eighth out of eight. If you as­sume each can­did­ate was go­ing to get at least one ques­tion in the first hour of the de­bate and sub­tract that 60 seconds from each can­did­ate’s total, the res­ults are even more telling: Rom­ney got roughly 12 times as much time as Paul, Perry 10 times, San­tor­um eight times, Cain sev­en times, Gin­grich six times, Hunts­man and Bach­mann each more than 4 times. De­duct­ing the one-ques­tion al­lot­ment, the ac­tu­al time each can­did­ate spoke in the first (na­tion­ally tele­cast) hour of the de­bate went roughly: Rom­ney six minutes-plus, Perry five minutes-plus, San­tor­um four minutes, Cain nearly four minutes, Gin­grich three minutes, Hunts­man more than two minutes, Bach­mann two minutes, and Paul 30 seconds. Yes, you read that right.

San­tor­um, Hunts­man, and Bach­mann, who are in the cel­lar in nearly every poll, each had at least quad­ruple the air time as Paul did at the last de­bate. People make the ar­gu­ment that Paul has no real shot to win the nom­in­a­tion, and that is why he should not be called on as fre­quently. But if that were the cri­terion then at this point Perry, San­tor­um, Hunts­man, Bach­mann, and even Cain should be treated the same or worse.

I am a colum­nist for the Na­tion­al Journ­al, which co­sponsored the de­bate, but I’ve got to ques­tion the al­lot­ment. More ques­tions should have gone to Paul if only for the sake of good tele­vi­sion, since his po­s­i­tions con­trast sharply with those of the rest of the GOP field, es­pe­cially on for­eign policy and na­tion­al se­cur­ity. He wants to end all the wars im­me­di­ately, is pretty much an isol­a­tion­ist, is mor­ally op­posed to tor­ture, and con­stantly raises con­cerns about the United States be­com­ing a po­lice state and in­vad­ing our pri­vacy based on ter­ror­ism con­cerns. And even with — or be­cause of — these stands, he is per­form­ing very well in all the polls. Seems like must-see TV to me with all the can­did­ates en­joy­ing a pas­sion­ate dis­cus­sion.

And so like many mo­ments in polit­ics, this raises an­oth­er con­cern: the me­dia’s sys­tem­at­ic ex­clu­sion from the de­bates of can­did­ates who may ac­tu­ally have be­come com­pet­it­ive in this very flu­id en­vir­on­ment if giv­en a na­tion­ally tele­vised for­um to reach to voters. A good ex­ample is former Louisi­ana Gov. Buddy Roe­mer. Here is someone who served in both the Con­gress and as gov­ernor, who has a very con­sist­ent mes­sage about cor­rup­tion in Wash­ing­ton, who is very good on the stump, and who is the only Re­pub­lic­an savvy enough to ad­opt some of the Oc­cupy Wall Street mes­saging and run a more pop­u­list cam­paign.

Giv­en a spot­light, that’s a com­bin­a­tion that might have ig­nited voters this year. But alas, we will nev­er know. Why not ex­clude a couple of the oth­er can­did­ates who are polling at 1 or 2 per­cent, sub in Roe­mer for one de­bate and see what hap­pens?

The good news in all of this is that de­bates mat­ter. Voters are hungry for the type of ex­change and open­ness and au­then­t­ic per­form­ance that they provide. De­bates mat­ter much more than paid ad­vert­ising, which is won­der­ful news. The bad news is that many me­dia out­lets are still try­ing to force the pro­cess through an out­dated polit­ic­al mod­el by either lim­it­ing time for can­did­ates they don’t deem worthy or com­pletely ex­clud­ing oth­ers. And that does a dis­ser­vice not only to the vot­ing pro­cess but also to the bot­tom line: the me­dia’s view­er­ship.

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