Earlier this morning, under the @CNNBelief handle (which is for the religion news/opinion section of CNN), an editor tweeted:
Why was #CNNDebate question on contraception booed? Is it just us or are social conservative questions often booed? Why?
Now, if you caught the debate, you know exactly why the question was booed. It was an unbelievably horrible question that sounded like it was written by a focus group including Planned Parenthood media strategists, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and David Axelrod:
Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidates believe in birth control and, if not, why?
Speaking as someone who is pretty frightened and deeply concerned by the Obama Administration's latest infringement of religious liberty (which, under new Obamacare regulations, forces everyone to pay for abortifacients, sterilization and contraception for their employees even if they have religious objections to it) I responded by screaming. I also tweeted something that violated the Code of Conduct on two levels (writing in all caps was one!). So it's safe to say that I would have been booing right alongside that crowd of Romney and Paul supporters in Arizona.
I responded to the @CNNBelief tweet:
are you joking? Because your network turned a HUGE issue of religious liberty into a question on BC. Unbelievably offensive.
The editors replied, "Is it really that simple? This isn't the only time a socially-conservative question fetched boos in debates this year." Indeed it hasn't. I argue that many of these questions have been part of a pattern. They're all how one would frame a question to one's political enemies to make them look bad rather than elucidate the differences between candidates (the latter of which is, ostensibly, the purpose of the debate).
Now, in last night's chat, I mentioned that as a libertarian, I'm not always on board with the GOP candidates. But their responses to this question were all great. Newt Gingrich pointed out the false premise of the question before noting that the media were never terribly interested in Barack Obama's legislative votes in support of infanticide. Romney pointed out the huge threats to religious liberty we've seen in the last few years. Santorum, who was then asked about his personal religious views on birth control, ended his statement with the most memorable line of the night ("You know, here's the difference between me and the left, and they don't get this. Just because I'm talking about it doesn't mean I want a government program to fix it. That's what they do. That's not what we do."). And Ron Paul compared the hormones used in medicines such as birth control with guns, reminding people that the same things can be used for good or evil.
What I wonder, though, is why Republicans are even sitting down for debates moderated by the ostensibly mainstream media. How is it different than if, say, David Axelrod were asking the questions? It makes sense for Democratic politicians to do it, since it's friendly territory. But should Republicans seek out other venues? I'm sure they could still get them aired nationally, since people are surprisingly interested in watching them.
Shouldn't the establishment (or whoever controls the Republican Party) get working on solving this problem? It's not like it's going to get better in the next few months.