Conservatives say the media is out to get them, but debates run by conservative talkers would be a catastrophe for Republican candidates and the party.
Talk-radio host and Chapman University Professor Hugh Hewitt has a question about tonight's GOP debate in Arizona. "John King is moderating, incredibly, and I like John King. He's a fair guy, he's very experienced," Hewitt says. "But he's moderating his third Republican debate. How in the world does that happen, that not one debate has been moderated by, for example, a Mark Levin or a Laura Ingraham or a Dennis Prager or a Bill Bennett, and yet John King has had three of them?"
Interesting question. The Republican Party could stage a debate with any of those people. But despite constantly complaining about the mainstream media, its candidates almost always wind up onstage facing broadcast journalists. Why don't conservative talk-radio hosts get any love?
Here are my explanations:
1) CNN has lots of viewers who the candidates want to reach. But the network isn't going to host a debate unless it can highlight its own talent.
2) The candidates benefit from using journalists as foils -- Herman Cain and Rick Perry both got some applause lines off at their expense, and Newt Gingrich owes much of his rise to attacking the media. Most memorably, he lambasted John King in an earlier debate for pressing him on the details of his extramarital affair, drawing raucous applause from the audience. Imagine what a difficult position he'd have been in if Bill Bennett had posed the same question.