The delusion that ABC appears to be under is persistent throughout the traditional media: that conservatives, and the radio hosts that rant for them, are the sole representatives of “the heartland.” So if they want a question asked, even when it’s transparently for political reasons, it must be what’s “on the mind of regular Americans.”
ABC does not seem to have learned the lesson from the past few weeks: voters are generally not interested in the these manufactured outrages. For example, 58% of likely Pennsylvania voters said the Rev. Wright story had “no effect” on their view of Sen. Obama (and an additional 24% liked Obama more afterwards.) We also haven’t seen significant poll movement following the trumped-up “Bittergate.”
I suspect this has less to do with the candidate than with what’s actually on the minds of voters: how we fix the economy, and how we get out of Iraq.
These issues only got touched upon last night, and with factually flawed questioning from ABC’s Charlie Gibson.
In questioning Sen. Clinton, Gibson asserted, “General Petraeus was in Washington. You both were there when he testified. Saying that the gains in Iraq are fragile and are reversible. Are you essentially saying: I know better than the military commanders here?”
But Petraeus did not unequivocally say the basic plans for withdrawal, as outlined by Clinton and Obama, would reverse the fragile (in other words, not very significant) gains. Asked by surge cheerleader Sen. Lindsey Graham what would happen if we withdrew a brigade a month, Petraeus said, “If conditions were good it would be doable.”
Later Gibson also repeatedly asserted to Sen. Obama that “history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up,” making the classic, nonsensical conservative argument. But economist Jason Furman told The New Republic:
The [congressional committee] score of the capital gains cut in 1997 was a few billion dollars annually. The 2003 cut was something like $5 billion annually. But capital gains revenues can go up or down by tens of billions annually. So it is hard to look at the noisy data and infer ex post the revenue impact of these changes.
Comments from Left Field also note that some people timed the selling of assets, when the capital gains tax is levied, right after the cut. That merely causes a short-term spike in taxes being collected. not a wave of economic growth magically turning a tax cut into increased revenue over the long-term.
So even when the debate got around to substance, there was no substance.
There’s one way to counter the conservative influence on the traditional media. Engage the media.
Let them know what their consumers really want. Don’t leave the questioning to Hannity. Submit your own substantive questions to the media ahead of time for events such as this, so they know that the superficial gotcha questions is not what voters want to hear.
They need to hear us in large numbers so they realize that the Hannities of the world are not the sole representatives of the heartland, and that they better ask real questions that matter to voters if they want more voters to actually watch their shows.
At this blog, we do this every Friday for the Weekend Watchdog — letting the Sunday shows know what questions should be asked. And we always need your help to get those questions in front of hosts.
So come back here tomorrow, and let’s get to work.