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The Day Democracy Died

When did we as Americans lose control? When did those of the intelligencia decide that the common man was incapable of choosing his leaders? For me the day is obvious. It was October 15, 1992.

I can even tell you where this happened. It wasn’t on the floor of congress or on the battlefield, or even in a government office with the signing of a law or treaty. It was on a stage in Richmond, Virginia at the site of the second presidential debate of 1992.

The debate featured president George H. W. Bush and the youthful William Clinton and even a third party upstart, H. Ross Perot. The debate dragged on in a sluggish manner. Each candidate made his points as rehearsed, but President Bush did seem to be impatient with the tedium of the process. Later the commentators would comment on his frequent episodes of gazing at his wristwatch. This was seen as a sign of inattention and insincerity.

Then the moment arrived. The very moment that America changed. The ABC moderator, Carole Simpson delivered the moment.

“President Bush, you have described yourself as the ‘education president.’”

President Bush nodded in agreement that he had, indeed, made education a priority in his four-year term.

Then Simpson delivered her question with a drip of sarcasm, “How do you account for the poor state of education in America during your term in office, and what will you do to remedy this in your second term.”

President Bush was obviously confused by the question, or perhaps he was more surprised by Ms. Simpson’s indictment of his policies in her framing of the question. He answered the question to the best of his ability, but could not dispel the effect of her stinging words. He made no effort to challenge her on the obvious slanted staging of the question. The commentators mentioned this in passing, but were not of the opinion that it was of much consequence. The damage was done and at that moment the election was lost. Yes, the votes had not been cast or counted. That was merely a formality. Clinton would be the next president.

Ms. Simpson has passed her debate moderator skills to others in the years since October 15, 1992, but their behavior has never returned to a truly neutral position. They have made obvious and blaring personal bias a given rather than a trait to be avoided.

Let’s fast forward to the election of 2012. The debate this time was between Mitt Romney and President Obama. This was the first encounter of the two since the September 11 Benghazi attack on the embassy that cost four American lives. Initially the attack had been popularly blamed on an amateur video and the Sunday news shows had been bombarded by the administration’s confirmation of that. Secretary of State Clinton had met the coffins at Dover, Delaware with assurance to the family that the producer of that film would be punished for inciting the event.

Now comes the debate. Candidate Romney challenged the President on his reluctance to call the Benghazi event the terrorism it was then confirmed.

President Obama retorted that he had, in fact, called it terrorism within three days of the event. Romney stood there in disbelief, but Obama held firm that he had pronounced it terrorism even before sending his minions out to decry the video.

In a moment the moderator, Candice Crowley interrupted in order to “set the record straight” and reported that in a Rose Garden speech the president had mentioned terrorism making his debate statement correct. Much later, after the election, that rose garden speech could not be verified, but the damage was done.

Once again, the moderator’s insertion into a debate changed the tone and direction. Romney only stood there, looking foolish. He dared not challenge Ms. Crawley’s impromptu research for fear of appearing even more foolish. Romney lost. One may infer that he lost at that moment of the debate and the President; an expert in the art of nuance had once again proven himself smarter than the populace who were fed an entirely different story.

Since then, the press, The Fourth Estate, has become even more brazen. Conservatives have been denigrated and vilified by the press as well as their more liberal opponents. With the warm glow of good intentions, the progressives are largely given a pass by the media, while the conservatives’ cry for fiscal and personal responsibility are under attack from press and opponents.

The perversion of the democratic process has been transparently completed and now we have likely forever lost the balance of our two-party democratic system.

Remember the date: October 15, 1992.

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