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Moyers: How Money and the Media Are Shaping the 2012 Elections (And Why You Should be Watching the Fox News Debates)

Bill Moyers talks with media critic Kathleen Hall Jamieson about money in politics, the media's missteps and the way the GOP's jeers shape debate results.

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There is a very high risk in the strategy that you just articulated that one would not be able to raise comparable amounts of money. One of the news networks calculated what it would be the equivalent of someone who's middle class giving the amount of money that Sheldon Adelson had given to Gingrich and said essentially it's pocket change for him.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: If you have the capacity to raise very, very, very large amounts of money that are simple pocket change to the people who are giving it and the alternative is you have to raise hundreds of thousands of contributions individually, the effort the campaign would have to make in order to get to that donor base and get that raise would be such that it would probably be extraordinarily difficult to execute the rest of what a campaign needs to do to win.

So I'm sympathetic to the idea that they're going to engage in playing on the playing field that they're being handed. I'm disappointed that it is the playing field that they're being handed. Because I'm afraid that one of the lessons from the Obama victory is that money when there's a differential matters. It shifts the voting perceptions in who you're likely to vote for. And it does it very clearly.

What does it mean in the general election? Net advantage: Whichever candidate can raise more money. Net advantage to the person with more billionaires in pocket unless one can mobilize an awful lot of small donors.

BILL MOYERS: You and I talked during the campaign about Obama's speeches, his campaigns. We never asked the question, "What happens if the economy comes apart, collapses? What-- what makes us think this young man can respond to what he's not even campaigning on?" Then of course in the fall of 2008 the economy, the financial system comes crashing down, something that hadn't been discussed and something he with his inexperience had to deal and hasn't (many of us think), done very well at it. How do we judge a presidential candidate on his or her capacity to deal with a catastrophe that hasn't even been thought of during the campaign?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, first, we got to watch in real time in 2008 as the two candidates responded to the crisis. And if you looked at what Senator McCain did and what Senator Obama did I think it's reasonable to say that Senator Obama engaged in a kind of calm, deliberative, systematic set of moves that suggested a kind of leadership capacity that may not have been suggested by the activities that McCain engaged in.

But I think there's a larger question. We make the assumption that candidates have a high level of control over the economy. We make the assumption that when the economy is getting better they deserve credit, when the economy is not doing better they deserve blame. The president of the United States exercises relatively little control over the economy. This is a big, complex world and you've talked about it in your earlier programs.

There are many factors largely beyond the control of the president of the United States that presidents just simply have to confront. I mean, at the moment you've got a European crisis that the United States doesn't have a whole lot of ability to act within that is going to have a great deal of affect on whether this recovery continues to claw its way forward or not.

And so we campaign in the unrealistic expectation that presidents can do more than they can actually do. They abet that illusion and then when they don't we say, "Oh, you've failed us, you've failed us." And a candidate who campaigned on the fierce urgency of now and on change, imply quick change by his, by virtue of his leadership played out an illusion that you knew was going to be dashed by his presidency however successful. Because presidents have to govern among other things with the Congress in a context in which there are real constraints on what we've got available for revenue.

 
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