Alex Massie

The First 2012 Debate

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Will be held next spring at the Reagan Library. So soon! What joy! Andrew Sullivan notices that Hugh Hewitt thinks it's terrible that the questions will be asked by "mainstream journalists". Hewitt wants "different kinds of journalist" to set the agenda. By different he means the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity Mark Levin and Michael Medved.

Andrew complains, hyperbolically to be sure, that this is "like Stalin being grilled by the Politburo". But actually, I would be interested in watching a Presidential debate moderated by the likes of Limbaugh and Levin and co. Lord knows, there will be plenty of opportunities for Wolf Blitzer and Brian Williams and the rest to ask dumb questions. Why shouldn't the conservative movement's own favourites have the chance to do so in a nationally-televised format too?

In fact, a Levin and Limbaugh moderated debate would be more interesting and probably more fun than most such affairs. Who doesn't look forward to the spectacle of Mitt Romney sucking up to talk radio hosts while simultaneously trying to appear loftily Presidential and above the fray? It could be delicious. Indeed, this kind of debate might be much more illuminating than most "debates". Which candidate, if any, will dare to suggest, even mildly, that the Great Limbaugh might be mistaken about anything? More probably, which candidate would most thoroughly abase themselves before their inquisitors? 

In its way, then, Hewitt's notion could produce a debate that might actually reveal something useful and even important about the field. Just not, perhaps, in quite the way he imagines.

I'd also like to see a Democratic equivalent. Perhaps with a panel of moderators including Keith Olbermann, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Michael Moore. And then they could swap debates: Republicans grilled by lefties; Democrats by the talk radio boys. Who needs Anderson Cooper?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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