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Smart Bombs: Pundits punted on debate

OK, so I just spent the better part of a day reading post-debate analyses, and it’s clear that wide swaths of the media commentariat have just given up. At what point did pundits start admiring candidates for their nakedly superficial antics and stop paying attention to the facts?

There was a time when the horse-race style of reporting was reviled, but now journalists themselves are the trainers. If you doubt this, check the consensus on who won and lost.

Michelle Bachmann was deemed a winner for her refined stagecraft and savvy timing in announcing her candidacy. She also produced the best sound bites without appearing to be crazy. Rick Santorum was a loser for not producing any YouTube moments.

Mitt Romney scored big time for having the presence of mind to announce to the New England crowd that the Boston Bruins were ahead in their hockey game.

Tim Pawlenty “stumbled” by failing to turn to Romney and tell him to his face that his Massachusetts health care plan is super icky.

Newt Gingrich? Too grouchy and professorial. He needs to learn to rap or tap or something. Ron Paul? He looked like he was shrinking inside his suit. Herman Cain wasn’t able to reproduce his star turn in … um … wherever that first debate was.

If I were the king of coverage, it would be themed “Truth or Consequences” not “America’s Got Talent.” What would this bizarre show look like? Well, after the debate was over, there would be no coverage. A day later, research-weary journalists would tell America which candidates were able to stick to the truth.

Radical, I know. But here’s what it might’ve looked like, with the help of the researchers at

Michelle Bachmann stated health care reform would kill 800,000 jobs. That’s a stretch. The Congressional Budget Office noted that some people hang on to their jobs because of health care coverage. After reform, some of them would stop working or would work less and purchase insurance through one of the exchanges created by the law.

Mitt Romney said that when he was governor Massachusetts didn’t raise any taxes in implementing universal health care. But the next governor did, raising the cigarette tax by $1 a pack to help pay for it.

Rick Santorum bashed the president for being “against any kind of exploration offshore or in Alaska.” He’s right about Alaska, but wrong about the rest. The Obama administration has approved 296 offshore drilling permits. Santorum also stated that the Independent Payment Advisory Board established under health care reform would ration care. But the law specifically bars IPAB from recommending rationing.

Tim Pawlenty has a budgetary plan that depends on the economy growing by 5 percent per year. He defended the plan by noting that if Brazil can achieve such growth, so can the United States. Brazil’s economy has grown that rapidly in only seven of the past 30 years. For Pawlenty’s plan to pencil out, the U.S. economy would have to grow 5 percent every year, which is unprecedented in modern times.

If the media put a premium on substance and the truth, candidates would have the choice of adjusting or being embarrassed. But because so many pundits declared Bachmann and Romney the winners based on stagecraft, you can expect more crowd-pleasing moments.

And that’s a fact.

What’s in a name? Because I have a much-mocked last name, I feel entitled to the following observation about Anthony Weiner. (You think I have it bad with Crooks? My mother’s maiden name is Steele.) Rather than wait for three weeks before resigning, Weiner should’ve seen that this “sexting” scandal would’ve prevented him from co-sponsoring bills with many members of Congress.

The Dingell-Weiner bill? Couldn’t even mention it without giggling.

Some other politicians he could’ve never worked with are: Akin, Biggert, Dent, Dicks, Dreier, Duncan, Holden, Hurt, Issa, Kind, Labrador, Latta, Rangel, Slaughter and Waxman. (Feel free to pause here and play.)

Before this mess, there is one bill he could’ve produced that would’ve saved himself a lot of embarrassment: “If any member of Congress is caught tweeting, texting or otherwise conveying images of his or her private parts, he or she must immediately resign.”

To give the bill its proper name, there was a congressman from Wisconsin who could’ve co-sponsored it. Pretty sure there would’ve been unanimous consent for the Obey-Weiner Act.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at or at (509) 459-5026.