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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

 
Brat Boy Debater

In case anyone's wondering why Bush and company negotiated hard for the networks not to show cut-away or reaction shots in the debate, this little passage from "When George meets John" by James Fallows explains it:

The debate was held in a tiny basement room on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. The candidates' families and a few local officials sat on metal folding chairs in the room; everyone else, including reporters, watched TV monitors elsewhere. Laura Bush sat a few feet away from Mauro's children, whom she knew but (according to Mauro) did not speak to or acknowledge. According to the rules of this debate, insisted on by Bush's team, the screen had to show only whichever candidate was speaking—that is, no cutaway or reaction shots were allowed

Therefore no one outside the room saw the miniature drama inside. Bush was halfway toward his presidential style, speaking more slowly and less gracefully than four years earlier, and with a more dismissive air toward his opponent. While Mauro was speaking, Bush would sigh, grimace, and send body-language messages of boredom or contempt. "It was incredible," Mauro told me recently. "I almost can't believe it in retelling it. Because the press was upstairs, they didn't realize how aggressive he was on the stage—pulling the sleeve of the moderator, staring or winking at Laura in the crowd." The moderator of the debate, Bob Moore, of the El Paso Times, told me that Bush actually grabbed him just before the debate: "In the hallway, Bush did grab me by the lapels, pull me close to his face, and say, 'Bobby, you clean up real good.' Typical Bush." When Bush was on stage but off camera, Moore said, "there was that Bush smirk, rolling his eyes, all of which Bush is very good at."





Now, supposedly the networks are not going to follow the negotiated restrictions:

And the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which is not a party to the agreement, said it could not be expected to enforce strictures on network coverage of the four debates.

At issue are rules that bar the networks from airing "cutaway" shots of either Republican President Bush or Democratic challenger John Kerry while they are waiting their turn to speak during the debates.

[...]

Fox News Channel, whose turn it is under a rotation system to operate the "pool" cameras for all the networks in the first debate on Thursday in Coral Gables, Florida, said it would follow its own editorial judgment in operating its cameras.

"They don't want reaction shots," said Fox News spokesman Paul Schur told Reuters. "We're not going to bow to outside pressure. We're not going to follow these restrictions."


Yeah, sure.

This is a problem. FoxNews has a very bad track record of signalling GOP propaganda in debates. In the January 22 Democratic primary debate, they cut to their panel for immediate spinning by William Bennett before the debate was over.

Fox News is going to follow it's own editorial rules all right. And, I think we know what they are, don't we?





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