Lehrer's debate ignored world's vast majority

[via FAIR]

PBS's Jim Lehrer, as the moderator of the sole presidential debate dedicated to international policy and security issues, asked a narrow set of questions that left the vast majority of the world and its problems undiscussed.

Lehrer spent much of the debate asking about the ongoing global financial crisis, quoting President Dwight Eisenhower as saying that "the foundation of military strength is economic strength." When he turned to questions more specifically about foreign policy, he asked about the "lessons of Iraq"; whether "more U.S. troops should be sent to Afghanistan, how many and when"; the degree of threat posed by Iran; whether Russia was a "competitor," an "enemy" or a "potential partner"; and the likelihood of another September 11-style attack.

These are all important international policy areas, but what Lehrer didn't ask about--and what the candidates subsequently didn't discuss--was striking.

Two of the U.S.'s three largest trading partners--Canada and Mexico--were never mentioned. Nor was India, the second largest country in the world by population and the fourth largest economy.

The U.S.'s most important European allies--the British, French and Germans--were each mentioned once, by McCain, as countries that might help us influence Iran.

Japan was mentioned once, by Obama--as a place where we don't want the energy-efficient cars of the future being built.

China, the most populous country in the world, the second biggest economy in the world and probably the second most powerful country in the world, was mentioned five times by the candidates, but wasn't brought up in any of the questions.

While Israel was not mentioned in Lehrer's questioning, it was brought up several times by McCain and Obama in the context of the candidates' claims that Iran posed a potential threat to that country. Palestinians or Palestine were not mentioned.

Africa and Latin America were each mentioned once, by Obama--as places where China is active. Current and recent hot spots in Africa like the Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Rwanda were omitted; Somalia was mentioned only when McCain discussed his stance on the intervention there in the 1990s. Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and Haiti never came up; Venezuela was mentioned once, by Obama--as a "rogue state."

Serbia and the former Yugoslavia were not referred to; Kosovo was mentioned once, by McCain--as a place where he had supported military action. (He actually said he "supported what we did in Kosovo," which isn't true--he wanted to send ground troops in.)

Topics like global poverty, hunger and the food crisis were not asked about or brought up by the candidates. AIDS and international health policy went unmentioned as well. Climate change was mentioned three times by the candidates (once as a reason to support nuclear power), but not brought up by Lehrer.

Nobody mentioned human rights. "Torture" was mentioned three times, but not brought up by Lehrer.

Clearly, a 90-minute debate cannot touch on every topic of international policy. But the narrow focus of Lehrer's questioning suggested that, the financial crisis aside, military intervention and confrontation were the only issues worth talking about. Given the wide variety of complex problems facing the globe, the missed opportunity is tragic.

ACTION: Ask Jim Lehrer why his questions focused so disproportionately on military intervention and confrontation, to the exclusion of many of the most pressing global problems.

CONTACT: Jim Lehrer
Email: jlehrer@newshour.org
Phone: 703-998-2150

article originally published at http://www.fair.org.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey