Today’s Phrase for Latin Lovers

Rem ipsam dic, mitte male loqui.

Translation:
Speak out the whole truth boldly, but use no bad language. -- John Adams, 1775

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Ancient History

|Campaign 2012 | Political Prudence

On Moderators and Fair Share Debate Timing

There the moderator sits. A member of the Gang of 500, the Washington journocrats, The Journocracy, appointed to their role by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Oh, the prestige, the honor, the gleeful stab at those who have held them in lesser esteem.

As the debate begins, most moderators believe they will be fair and impartial. But as time rolls on, the moderator’s irrepressible bias slowly emerges.

See, speaking now is the candidate for whom the journalist has a natural affinity. It’s okay if they let the guy ramble on, they think. Using the “my primary duty is to be a facilitator” excuse, they can generously permit the guy to fully explain his position and make a few attacks on the opposition.

But then it’s the other guy’s turn. Ugh, thinks the moderator, some of his positions are just untenable. How can anyone fall for this baloney?

In a normal interview, the journalist would rake the guy over the coals with a passel of hard-nosed questions. But here on the debate stage, the journalist-as-moderator must foster an appearance of a balanced approach. So they begin tensing up, hoping the guy will shut up soon.

Just as we try to watch Sunday morning news shows with an open mind, the other side’s talking points are often like nails on a chalkboard, rife with so many lies, distortions, naivete and meaningless babble. We just want to scream at the stupidity, tell them a thing or two, or change the channel if it becomes too inane to handle.

But journalist-moderator is stuck there on stage, having to smile and listen to stuff they dislike. Sooner or later, they interrupt. They can’t help it. “All right, all right, I think we’ve got that. Now let’s hear the better side.”

Then when their secretly preferred guys speaks, it’s like a soothing balm. Ah, yes. There’s the logic that America needs to hear, they think as their guy goes over the time limit and beyond. The moderator thinks it would be impolite to interrupt while he is on such a roll. The moderator knows where the candidate’s rambling point is leading and will, with cheerful, hearty forbearance, give him a chance to get there—or perhaps sneak in a little prompting word or two to refocus him on the proper argument if he gets lost.

[Recall when Jim Lehrer rescued a momentarily stumped Obama with the key word "balanced," to which Obama looked grateful and spilled out his stump speech on "balanced approach."]

If the other guy attempts to break in or complain, they get the stink eye the first time and then the verbal rebuke the next.

When it’s finally wrong guy’s turn to speak, again with the grating wrong arguments, the moderator feels they are doing the audience a favor by ending such babble. Surely everyone else must feel the same need to cut him short. But to be generous, the moderator permits a few more seconds, endures it all just a tad more to show how reasonable and balanced they are. And then smack! “Let’s move on.”

Yet, there’s an inherent flaw that goes beyond the impatience the liberal journalist will have for the conservative candidate: The seasoned journalist covers politics daily and has heard much of this information before, but many in the television audience are just now tuning in, and most of it is rather new to them.

By not giving equal time, by constantly interrupting one but not the other, is to give the other side a clear advantage. Time is money. If a candidate were to buy four minutes of national wall-to-wall channel television ad time, just how much would it cost them? This may be the only shot a candidate gets to connect with the audience.

The moderators need to get back to benign moderating. If journalists feel incapable of doing it without putting their stamp on it, let’s have non-journalists do it. How about a business man? Or a housewife? Someone who will just moderate and get out of the way and be fair about it.

If the Commission on Presidential Debates had clocks running showing the audience and the candidates the amount of time they are getting, the moderators would have a much better guide than their internal tolerance clocks to ration out the critical time allotted to each candidate to make his case to the American public.

|Prudence Potpourri | The Left

White House Gives Dignity and Decorum a Swift Kick in the Rump

The White House—that illustrious, stately, venerable seat of the executive branch of the most powerful government in the world—has taken to tweeting the equivalent of giving someone a loogie or a swirlie or a wedgie. They have Rickroll’d* a constituent.

During a Twitter event, named #WHchat, in which the White House was fielding questions from the general public, one guy tweeted a little poke:

@wiggsd (David Wiggs) wrote: “This WH correspondence briefing isn’t nearly as entertaining as yesterday’s. #TCOT #WHchat

to which the White House flippantly replied:

@whitehouse wrote to @wiggsd: “Sorry to hear that. Fiscal policy is important, but can be dry sometimes. Here’s something more fun: tinyurl.com/y8ufsnp #WHChat”

That tinyurl.com link goes to a clip of Rick Astley’s music video of his hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

* Rickrolling is a passe internet fad. It’s a trite way of tricking someone into clicking a video link that purports to be something of interest to someone, but instead serves them up this Astley video. Rickrolling was all the rage back in 2007, until it quickly became highly annoying. The world was grateful when the fad went away. Now like flu, the White House is trying to bring it back?

I actually think the tweet was kinda of funny, because it is so incredibly juvenile. I mean, who other than 6-year-olds Rickroll anyone anymore? So it’s unexpected.

But this is an account that is supposed to represent all American citizens to the world. This is the dignity of the United States at hand. For some reason, this administration seems to think that the persons behind the official Twitter accounts of prestigious and official government departments and officials can take their pants off, pop open a beer and try their hand at amateur standup comedy on Twitter’s 24/7 open mic night. (Recall PJ Crowley, spokesman for the State Department, using his Twitter account to tweak foreign leaders with insults until he finally resigned?)

Do we really want a government that runs around sticking “Kick Me” signs on everyone’s back? Is this what we have devolved to? It’s a slippery slope toward putting a whoopie cushion on the guest of honor’s chair at a state dinner or using a joy buzzer when shaking hands with the Queen. Yes, it would be hilarious, because it would be so inappropriate. But we need a White House that we don’t have to worry is gonna get caught mooning tourists or playing ding-dong-ditch down embassy row.

Yeah, yeah, call me a humorless ol’ stick-in-the-mud, but given the supposed seriousness of the issue of the day—the debt ceiling, which what was being discussed in the #WHchat—and President Obama’s proclivity for lecturing Republicans about the need to be adult, this is a far cry from behaving properly.

I’m not exactly the only one thinking this. David Wiggs, the recipient of the Rickroll tweet—and a Republican I would assume, as he tweeted a happy birthday greeting to George Bush earlier in the month, to which he added the hashtag #wemissyou—took it all in good humor, but many of those that tweeted to him about it were not so laissez-faire:

@HavanasBananas tweeted to @wiggsd: “lame that @whitehouse retweeted this during #whchat when so many Americans had way more significant things to say. thumbs down”

@wiggsd replied to @HavanasBananas: “I thought it was funny…but good point.”

@SiriusFarm tweeted: “sure seems like the #WH would have more important things to do than #rickrolling @wiggsd – I see where their priorities are”

And @DWGen1 tweeted: “Hrm, The White House Rick Rolled someone.. Wonder How Much was appropriated for this, are they paying royalties?”

That last tweet has a point…although they probably weren’t being serious. Would the White House have an obligation to pay royalties for using someone’s copyrighted material in the course of their business? (If Astley could collect royalties from all the Rickrolling, he would be one of the wealthiest men in the world.) Don’t forget, this is an official account. They say so in their Twitter bio:

It is so official that they felt it necessary to warn people that tweet interactions with them are subject to privacy laws and may be archived as official White House communication. Do we really want this White House Rickrolling to live on in infamy, for future generations to tut-tut at the immaturity of this White House?

The people in the White House need to grow up and conduct themselves in a manner befitting the privilege of working for the People in one of the most renown buildings in the world. The world is already concerned we can’t manage our checkbook. We don’t need the toddlers running around giggling wildly and pulling the People’s pigtails while the elected officials attempt to demonstrate maturity and responsibility.

Here’s my suggestion: Keep official government department and official accounts sacrosanct. Don’t screw around with them or tell “yo momma” jokes with them. Preserve what shreds of dignity we have left. This administration has fairly stripped us bare.

The persons behind these talent-show tweets should establish a separate, personal account, where they can tweet their prepubescent hilarity to their hearts’ delight.

If we don’t stand up against these Stooge-ish antics, the next thing you know, the White House will be dredging up footage of the angry Hitler scene in the movie Downfall, and replacing the real English subtitles with phony dialogue about the debt ceiling. Yeah, that will be a real fresh and unique gag. NOT, as they used to gratingly say back when it was still cool.

Stop the insanity. Don’t make us have to get a nanny to discipline the nanny state.