John Harwood regularly defends Hillary Clinton, gushes about President Obama and strongly dislikes Republicans. Why is he moderating a GOP debate?
It’s not news to anyone that political journalists tend to be liberal. That alone doesn’t mean they’re bad at their jobs, but the presence of strong political views combined with the lack of ideological diversity can pose problems for those with differing political views.
We see this frequently with mediated political debates, where journalists moderate and control what topics are covered, how questions are framed, and what assumptions are built into topics.
Some journalists are better than others, of course, but too often the moderators — from smug local journalists to Candy Crowley — become part of the story. They frequently don’t have the policy chops to ask good policy questions or respond to dumb policy answers. When they generally agree with a politician, they won’t push back on even the most erroneous or outlandish claims. But if they disagree with a candidate, they’ll push back, no matter how uninformed about the matter at hand they may be. This is related to another point of confusion: they seem to believe it’s their job to argue with candidates rather than facilitate discussions among candidates. The debate is supposed to be with one other, after all, not with the moderator.
Journalists frequently ask questions full of incorrect assumptions, mistaking their job of reporting on a given topic for being significantly knowledgeable on the same. The ideological agendas advanced by various journalists show that the media are not neutral parties. To take just one example, reporters love to push pro-life candidates about every angle of their views on the sanctity of life, posing increasingly difficult questions. But when was the last time you heard a pro-choice politician asked much of anything about his views, much less if he thinks the right to abortion extends to killing a child because she’s a girl?