Rise of conservative displeasure over Politico/NBC debate

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Earlier this month, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin mocked the D.C.-based news outlet Politico, describing it in an email to The Daily Caller, as “puppy-kicking, chain-smoking, porn producers.”

But if predictions of a Palin presidential bid in 2012 prove correct, the former Governor will subject herself to being thoroughly questioned and interrogated by the very same news outlet that has become the object of her contempt.

Shortly after Palin’s Politico-bashing comments erupted in a firestorm in media circles, Politico and NBC News announced plans to host the first Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in the spring of 2011. Some conservatives, however, are not happy with the idea of what they view as two left-of-center media outlets hosting a Republican debate.

Conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, in fact, penned a widely-circulated column in which he told probable GOP candidates to “just say no to Nancy Reagan”.

“Can we be honest? They are all liberals. All of them. Not one of the questioners that could or would be proposed by Politico or NBC would be remotely in touch with the cares, concerns, and passions of the GOP’s primary electorate,” wrote Hewitt.

When contacted by TheDC, Hewitt reiterated that sentiment, saying that the problem with NBC and Politico hosting a debate is that the panel of moderators would likely be typical, inside-the-Beltway journalists. Not only that, but the spring of2011 is just too early for a presidential debate.

“The first Republican presidential debate should be at the Reagan Library, but not until the fall of 2011,” Hewitt told TheDC. “And the panelists should be non-usual suspects…the key is getting new voices that are not the usual suspects.”

Now, a wave of conservative displeasure with the proposed debate is rising.

Charles Krauthammer, conservative commentator and Washington Post columnist, spoke out against the debate on Hewitt’s radio program.

“You know, here’s where I think you really need some kind of leadership. Either it’s the RNC chairman or some other Democrat, the Republican candidates themselves, or maybe some of the old, wise men in the Congress who should say there should be no debates until, say, the first of September or the first of August,” said Krauthammer. “It’s much too early to have fights.”

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is also expected to run for president in 2012, told TheDC that though he was perplexed by the announcement, Republican candidates should still participate.

“I am curious who decided that was the first debate,” Gingrich told TheDC. “Any two candidates could create a first debate. The Tea Parties could create a first debate.”

“However I would hope that whenever it is held, the announced candidates would go to the Reagan library no matter who is covering it,” he added.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels also appeared on Hewitt’s show, saying that as someone who might be considering a presidential run, he too, thought spring 2011 was too early.” Well, it would be too early for me, I’ll tell you that both as someone who might think about it, but just also as a citizen,” said Daniels.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform told the DC that if he had his way, the Republican primary debates would be hosted by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the media would be invited guests.

“All the debates should be open to the media, but they should be held for the purpose of letting Republicans explain to Republicans why they should vote for them in the primary,” said Norquist, “Instead, we’ll get nitpicking from left-of-center journalists asking questions that will impress their fellow journalists.”

“The first three debates ought to be run by the RNC…or hosted by a governor who’s not running,” added Norquist. “I’m not interested in the kind of questions a pundit would ask…Why would we let someone who doesn’t have anything to do with the process ask the questions?”

Mark Levin, conservative radio host and author of last year’s “Liberty and Tyranny: a Conservative Manifesto,” told TheDC that while he’s not thrilled with the hosts, Republican candidates should take advantage of the opportunity to prove their conservative credentials.

“There’s no question that Politico and NBC are leftist and I’m not excited about their participation,” said Levin. “But that said, I’m more interested in what Republicans that want to be president have to say. If they’re confident in their conservatism they should be able to answer any questions from anybody.”

He continued: “So while I wouldn’t have picked Politico and NBC because they’re hardly objective news outlets anymore, I think whoever Republicans nominate damn well better be able to deal with them and whole lot more…Ronald Reagan would have been able to take a question from one of the typically liberally writers and use it to display conservatism and to attract support.”

Brent Bozell, President of the Media Research Center and conservative columnist did not hold back when talking to TheDC about the Politico/NBC debate.

“When, oh when will Republicans learn? Every four years the presidential debate season takes place. Republicans dutifully line up for debates moderated by liberal “moderators” except there’s nothing moderate about these moderators who mercilessly attack them,” said Bozell.

“And when it’s over Republicans grouse at the unfairness of it all. Republicans are like cattle led to the slaughter, except cattle don’t have a choice, and Republicans have even less sense,” added Bozell.