Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Who Will Be Tonight's Ponytail Guy?

As we approach tonight's townhall-style debate with John McCain and Barack Obama with NBC's Tom Brokaw moderating, I have little faith this will be played fairly, if for no other reason these events always have some dubious audience questioners, none more famous than the infamous Ponytail Guy from 1992.
"Ponytail Guy" is the term some in political circles use to refer to Denton Walthall, who asked a question in the second presidential debate in 1992. A domestic mediator who worked with children, Walthall scolded President George H.W. Bush for running a mudslinging, character-based campaign against Bill Clinton in 1992. Referring to voters as "symbolically the children of the future president," he asked how voters could expect the candidates "to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it, as opposed to the wants of your political spin doctors and your political parties. ... Could we cross our hearts? It sounds silly here but could we make a commitment? You know, we're not under oath at this point, but could you make a commitment to the citizens of the U.S. to meet our needs—and we have many—and not yours again?"

It did sound silly: a father-president dandling a nation of children voters on his knee. But instead of challenging the paterfamilias premise, the candidates took his pain seriously. Walthall didn't scold Bush by name, but as the camera shot over his shoulder (showing us his ponytail), Bush could be seen growing annoyed. The question was addressed to all the candidates, but Bush was the candidate running the character-based campaign. He had answered a previous questioner by making the case for why Bill Clinton's character should be an issue. So it was obvious Bush was the target of the Ponytail Guy's criticism.

On Tuesday night, we'll get to hear from some of this campaign's swing voters—the rules of the debate guarantee their participation—as undecided voters pose questions to the candidates in the town-hall debate.
Now considering Tom Brokaw is hosting this event, can we reasonably expect anything to do with NBC is going to be fair to John McCain?

OK, stop laughing. This isn't meant as advance excuse making for John McCain, who by most accounts is more comfortable in this environment, as opposed to Barack Obama, who couldn't remember what he had for lunch if it weren't scripted for him.

Considering, however, the relentless media bias directed against McCain this campaign cycle contrasted with the sycophantic, fawning coverage of Barack Obama, who until now has been give a virtual free pass. How exactly is it were only 28 days from election day, this man has been running nonstop for 21 months and only now William Ayers is an issue?

For all the media blather last month about how Sarah Palin wasn't vetted properly, why is it the media never properly vetted Obama?

With that in mind, are we to expect some pre-screened questions by heretofore anonymous audience members aren't going to be designed to sandbag McCain and prop up Obama?
Tuesday's match-up at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., will be moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw, with the questions to be culled from a group of 100 to 150 uncommitted likely voters in the audience and another one-third to come via the Internet. The Gallup Organization -- as in past debates like this -- has the job of making sure the questioners reflect the demographic makeup of the nation.

Brokaw selects the questions to ask from written queries submitted prior to the debate, according to the "contract."

An audience member will not be allowed to switch questions. Under the deal, the moderator may not ask followups or make comments. The person who asks the question will not be allowed a follow-up either, and his or her microphone will be turned off after the question is read. A camera shot will only be shown of the person asking -- not reacting.
It won't take long to track down those asking questions and their background. How much do you want to wager we'll later find out some of the uncommitted likely voters have a certain partisan preference they failed to disclose?

It's not that difficult to fathom considering Gwen Ifill didn't even disclose to the debate commission she was doing a book about Barack Obama. Are we supposed to believe these uncommitted voters will be held to a higher standard?

Right. And I've got a deal deal for you on Lehman stock.

Michelle Malkin offers a word of caution.

Frankly, those running this show tonight know they're under a microscope, but their bias is just too entrenched. They can't help themselves. We'll probably see some Code Pink plant slip through tonight, the mainstream media will play dumb, instant flash polls will declare Obama a big winner and by the time the fallout hits it will be dismissed as sour grapes from a "desperate" McCain campaign.

I wish I had more faith, but when there hasn't been a conservative even allowed on stage at a debate since 1988, how can one not be pessimistic?

Now for the blast from the past, here's the infamous Ponytail Guy:

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