Fox, Democrats Stuck on Stupid

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The Democratic Party, by canceling a presidential-primary debate on Fox News, is cutting off its nose to spite its face. And this shows the party has learned nothing from Ned Lamont's defeat in Connecticut.

In that primary, a small group of influential bloggers and activists ousted longtime Sen. Joseph Lieberman in favor of Mr. Lamont. But in the real world of general elections -- in which voters care little about the latest ginned-up culture war as defined by party extremists -- Lieberman beat Lamont.

And now? From the day the party announced the Fox deal, the same group of "purists" declared it would not tolerate parley with the enemy. The party, at first, exhibited rare common sense in ignoring these cries. It was a smart move. It could have shown middle-of-the-pack Democrats that the candidates had the brass to take on Fox and the Fox audience that the party had plenty to offer Republican and independent middle-class voters.

Then John Edwards withdrew. His campaign's already been involved with one embarrassing fiasco after it hired two bloggers who subsequently had to resign because of a history of blog posts unsuitable for the mainstream. But Mr. Edwards was lagging in the polls, and baiting Fox undoubtedly seemed a good idea.

Fox News Chairman-CEO Roger Ailes took the bait, lambasting Edwards (though not by name) in a public speech and lecturing the Democratic Party about playing favorites with media outlets. That had to rankle, considering Fox News' "fair and balanced" relationship with the Republican Party. A day after the speech, the Democratic Party canceled the debate (though it asked the nation to believe it did so because of a botched joke).

Hypocrite or not, Mr. Ailes was right about two things. The first is that presidential candidates who expect to run the country should be able to face a debate moderator -- even a potentially hostile one. More important, though, is that the Democratic Party sacrificed a shot at something all too rare in a political realm in which many voters live in the echo chambers of talk radio and the blogosphere -- a chance to make its case to the other side.
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