CNN debate tonight: Here's hoping Wolf Blitzer won't let Newt Gingrich bully him

Based on the number of televised GOP candidate debates in 2008, we are just about halfway through the process with tonight's CNN-hosted debate on foreign policy.

I am encouraged by the big audiences of up to 6 million tuning in for some of the debates. But I am dismayed by some of the show biz priorities the cable channels are surrendering themselves to in hopes of getting a piece of that tasty Nielsen pie.

I am thinking here of CNBC using Jim Cramer as a moderator, and him sounding like Gilbert Gottfried in his first screaming, squawking question to the candidate. I was ready to tune out at that point in shared embarrassment for the entire realm of journalism, but then, I would have missed the end of Rick Perry's candidacy when he couldn't quite count to three on live TV.

Bloomberg wasn't much better with its silly use of Charlie Rose's table. It's not about your little channel and over-rated host, folks, it's about selecting a president of the United States.

And so it is that I will come to TV tonight hoping to see one of the few anchors who has the stature and the credibility to call out Gingrich take the candidate of bluster on for his phony game of pounding the press by telling moderators how "stupid" (one of his favorite words) or "wrong" (another) their questions are.

Blitzer is a journalist who prizes civility and even-handedness in his handling of interviews, which is another reason he might be one of the few who can challenge Gingrich to answer the questions asked of him instead of trying to use the stage to direct a dishonest attack on the press.

Gingrich was a member of the press (in the loose and sad way that term is now used) by nature of the money and marching orders he took from Fox News and its chief Roger Ailes. Given Gingrich's history of taking large sums of money and then brazenly lying his behind off when his obvious conflict of interest is revealed, he would probably still be cashing checks from Fox News if Ailes had not ordered him off the payroll in March once his compromised relationship with the right-wing cable outfit became too obvious to ignore.

Others have written more eloquently than I can do in this space about what a shabby excuse for an intellectual Gingrich is -- and what it, perhaps, says about how dumbed down we have become collectively to consider him one.

I am going to be nice and just say Gingrich would not have spent his academic career at West Georgia College (now University of West Georgia) if he was one of the best and brightest historians of his generation -- or even one of the better and brighter Ph.D.s in his class. (He left after eight years without tenure.)

Really, think about it, for goodness sakes. There is a reason he was there, and it had nothing to do with ideology or politics. There are plenty of really smart conservatives at prestigious schools.

As the Freddie Mac revelations clearly showed, this is a hack historian with his hand out to almost anyone who will put a buck in it, and it is time for the press to stop letting him play this dishonest game of beating up on it.

There's a civil but firm way to deal with bullies like Gingrich in follow-up questions and remarks, and I hope Blitzer will use his stature and intelligence to do that tonight. I'll put Blitzer's professional experience and John Hopkins University graduate education in international politics up against Gingrich's education and intellectual track record any day.




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