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Peter Clothier

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Ask the Hard Questions -- Please

Posted: 05/02/2012 11:41 am

I just watched the CBS This Morning interview with Mitt and Ann Romney, in which the couple were encouraged to spend a good deal of time "humanizing" the Republican candidate. CBS boasts more news in the morning, and I had expected better of Charlie Rose, who basks in a reputation for seriousness. I didn't get it. I got smiling, almost obsequious approval.

Okay, it was fair enough to give the candidate the opportunity to show his human side. Fair enough, too, in my opinion, was Romney's expressed "disappointment" in the Obama campaign's ad suggesting that the Republican would have acted differently in the Osama bin Laden event, whose anniversary we mark today. It was fair enough, as Romney conceded with every appearance of good grace, to claim this as a courageous decision by the president. It was not fair, though, to suggest that Romney would not have had the same measure of guts.

What was outrageous about the interview, though, was the total abdication on the part of the CBS team of any journalistic responsibility to challenge Romney's glib assertions that Obama's economic policies have been a failure -- and that he, Romney, had the magic key to economic recovery. Current evidence suggests, on the contrary, that the Obama policies are beginning to take effect and that the economy is recovering -- more slowly, certainly, than any of us would wish. But it's happening. How come the CBS team did not ask a single question about this?

Romney's bland assertion that he knows how to fix the complex problems that we face apparently also deserved no further questions. His support for the Ryan budget ("marvelous"!) and for policies that have long proven misguided and counter-productive -- not only in the Bush years, but for the decades following Ronald Reagan's "trickle-down" delusions -- went unchallenged. Even George H. W. Bush described them as "voodoo economics." But there was not a single question about taxes, or the vast gap between rich and poor. Not a single question about labor, even on May Day. Not a word about the replacement of revenues lost by continuing, even increased tax cuts for the wealthy. The candidate was allowed to simply assert the unquestionable superiority of policies over those of the President.

He was allowed, too, to blithely assert that the president has not been speaking about these issues and is not bothering to address them. I watch a little television now and then, and even I am better informed than that. I see the president constantly addressing economic issues, in almost every forum where he makes a speech. He has spoken time and again about the plight of the middle class and the suffering of the poor. He has spoken about the consequences of rising educational costs and the shrinking job market. He has spoken frankly about health care costs and social security.

Romney, to my knowledge, has spoken only in generalities. He feels free -- because, as on CBS This Morning, unchallenged -- to put words in Obama's mouth, or to suggest that Obama's policies are a failure. But no one, lest of all this CBS team, takes the trouble to ask him specifically about his plans for success, ow to achieve the miracle he tells us he can work. Sounds like voodoo to me.

I would worry less about this morning's debacle if it were an isolated case. But no, this typifies the election coverage on the part of the network television stations. No hard questions. No follow-up. Allow the candidate to get away with wild assertions that have no basis in fact. Ignore the fact that the president is addressing economic issues on a daily basis and in a serious and detailed way, and go along with the unfounded charges of inaction and incompetence.

The American voter deserves to hear the answers to hard questions from both candidates for the office. I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for someone to ask those questions of Romney.

 
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