It's bad enough that GOP presidential hopefuls Ron Paul and Rick Santorum were virtually benched for the Florida debates, but the muzzling of the crowd -- and an ostensibly pro-Gingrich crowd at that -- crossed a bit of a line. Fox News reported on it this morning:
Gingrich, who received two standing ovations during the debates in South Carolina -- which are credited in part with propelling him to the top of the GOP pack -- said the warning to the audience by NBC News host Brian Williams at the start of the debate was a bad one, but he's not surprised by it.
"I wish, in retrospect, that I protested" the call to keep quiet, Gingrich said. "I think it's wrong. And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media, which is what they've done in every debate."
The lack of applause and noise during the debate was striking, prompting many viewers to comment Monday night on the silence.
Context is always helpful, and by refusing to allow the crowd to show their approval or disapproval, it strikes one as a way to control the environment towards a desired end.
Debates should be free flowing and rancourous. In America, they've always been that way!
Washington has always been accused (and rightly so) of being too sheltered within the Beltway, and not connected enough to the grassroots. Debates where the audience can express their approval or disapproval with a candidate's thoughts just might be precisely the sort of voter interaction politics needs right now.