SEPTEMBER 25, 2003 - Prior
to the debate on Wednesday night, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante and
California State Senator Tom McClintock considered not attending, but
instead holding their own, unscripted debate out in front of the
building where the scripted one - put on by the California
Broadcaster's association - was to occur. Arnold should not get
away with being allowed to have the questions before the only debate
he would participate in, they said.
The California Broadcaster's Association assured Bustamante and
McClintock not to worry. Though the candidates would be given
the questions ahead of time, it would be a new type of debate with a
free-flowing format, and so, they were told, each candidate would get
to question the others freely and directly, making pre-scripting
So, Bustamante and McClintock agreed to participate. And today,
it is likely they couldn't regret it more.
This new format - which even the CA Broadcasters billed as something
like a WWF Smackdown - is designed to favor bullies - in particular,
ignorant bullies at that. Given the questions ahead of time, the
participants can be prepared with answers by handlers ahead of time.
As for the free-flowing format where the candidates were supposed to
be free to question each other - making for the "unscripted" portion -
instead what you had was candidates - Arnold in particular - talking
over anyone who tried to question them. Arnold the bully just
talked and talked and talked, refusing to let anyone get a word in -
not only when they tried to question him, but even when they were just
trying to give there answers in the first place.
At one point Bustamante just sat there mocking Schwarzenegger, rolling
his eyes as Arnold droned on and on, saying, "OK, Arnold... OK,
Arnold," like someone who is stuck with a nagging spouse or parent who
just rambles on and on obnoxiously and without point.
Huffington got so frustrated with Arnold's repeated talking over her
that she finally snapped, "This is impolite. This is the way you
treat women. We know that. But not now."
But, as if the format itself wasn't bad enough, moderator Stan Statham
acted as if he were Arnold's chaperone. First, he openly mocked
an early answer from Independent candidate Arianna Huffington.
Then, when she gave the above rebuke because Arnold would not let her
finish giving her answer - something Statham should have rebuked
Arnold for repeatedly but never did - Statham instead rebuked
Huffington, calling her comment, "a direct and personal attack."
Arnold's attacks on her and the others - such as when he broke out the
pre-scripted joke about her tax returns being so full of holes you,
"...could drive a Hummer through it," Statham did not rebuke
Schwarzenegger in the same way, nor even simply tell him to then be
quiet and allow Huffington to respond to the attack.
In addition, while the CA Broadcasters - and Statham himself, at the
beginning of the debate - said the giving of questions before the
debate would be countered by the fact that candidates could ask each
other whatever they wanted, made sure that didn't happen. He
constantly rebuked Bustamante and Huffington for, "straying off
topic." Now wait a second, he said the idea was that the
pre-given topics were just starting points, and the free-flowing
format would allow candidates to go into unscripted areas, making it
not a scripted debate.
That claim just turned out to be like FOX News', "Fair and Balanced,"
and, "We report, you decide," mantras - dishonest propaganda put there
to claim boldly that something is exactly the opposite of what it is.
Last night the CA Broadcasters put the slogan, "Free-Flowing and
Open," on their debate, assuring it wouldn't be possible to pre-script
for it, but in the end it was exactly scripted, the questions given
out ahead of time the only area the moderator allowed anyone to talk
Indeed, the format was entirely slanted toward the type of big-mouthed
bullies that dominate FOX News and AM radio type formats, where
bullying and interrupting anytime someone is about to show you are
wrong is the standard procedure. It was as if a bunch of
Schwarzenegger supporters sat around and tried to design a format - no
matter how absurd - that would work for him. The idea of giving
him the questions ahead of time was absurd enough. Giving him
free reign to talk over everyone else so they couldn't even give
answers, never mind question him, went beyond anything one would ever
imagine a professional organization like the CA Broadcasters would
ever stoop to.
Statham said at the beginning that this was to be a debate about
debates as well, about the format that was chosen.
You can bet the new breed of Bush/Limbaugh Republican is drooling at
the prospect of using this format in the future. They are used
to the one-sided, bully dominated talk-radio and TV format that has
come to dominate now. Debates had left them in a bad position,
the position of having to actually let the other side talk and be
Now, it seems, they have crafted a way to not even allow the other
side to be heard via debates.
Any candidate who ever permits themselves to be subject to a similar
format in the future must be a moron. Or, more accurately, a
moron and a bully who wants to be given pre-scripted answers and
thwart "free-flowing" debate.
Shame on the CA Broadcasters for making such a destructive format
seemingly for the direct purpose of benefiting Arnold. And the
rest of the country must take notice - beware, even the debate format
is in jeopardy of being turned into yet another bully-dominated,
anti-free speech tool of the bullying, bigmouthed Bush-brand