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Memo To Democrats: When Sean Hannity Asks You A Question, He’s Not Interested In The Answer. He's Trying To Trap You.

Reported by Ellen - December 12, 2005

As part of Friday night’s (12/9/05) discussion on Hannity & Colmes about the latest RNC video, Sean Hannity asked Democratic strategist Steve Murphy if he supported Howard Dean’s and John Kerry’s criticisms of the war “while our troops are in harm’s way, sir? Yes or no?” It was a perfect opportunity to call Hannity’s bluff but Murphy blew it by falling for the trick (the implication that the criticisms harm the troops) and trying to have a dialogue.

Until then, Murphy had done a good job of defending Democrats and attacking Bush for not having kept up his end of the war resolution (by not working with Congress on a proper exit strategy). And while he was never a pushover for Hannity’s bullying, the moment he answered Hannity’s trick question, Murphy lost control of the conversation.

In the past week or so, no less than three military experts (Gen. Tommy Franks, Gen. Paul Vallely, Col. Oliver North) have told Sean Hannity that criticism of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq poses no threat to the troops nor has any effect on troop morale. Yet Hannity, who has no military experience of his own, repeatedly “forgets” the answers he has gotten to his own questions and by the next show, he accuses Democrats of undermining the troops all over again.

It would have been great if Murphy had turned the question around on Hannity and asked HIM why he keeps asking this question when three military experts have already given him an answer. Does he know something they don’t? Another good option would have been to do what Arianna Huffington did the night before: take away Hannity’s ammunition by saying wholeheartedly that she endorsed Dean’s and Kerry’s comments. That put the onus back on Hannity to prove what was wrong with that and, of course, he could only opine.

But Murphy gave Hannity more ammunition by answering that Dean’s comments were taken out of context, that Dean “spoke poorly” and did not properly explain what he meant about not being able to win the war.

Hannity proved that he neither cared what Dean really meant nor what Murphy thought by interrupting the explanation to say, “There’s nothing out of context. Nothing out of context (his emphasis)… The problem is, is your party and your leaders are undermining the troops. You’re calling for retreat… You’ve undermined the president.”

After a commercial break, Hannity stepped up his attack against Dean and, by proxy, Murphy. “In the last segment, you said that Howard Dean misspoke when he said that the troops in Iraq – you know, that the idea that we’re gonna win, unfortunately, is plain wrong. Let me ask you this, did he misspeak when he said all of these other things? That he hates Republicans, that Republicans are evil, that Republicans are braindead… Are you proud of those statements, as a Democrat?”

There were many ways Murphy could have avoided that trap but his honest answer only got him in deeper. “I am going to answer your question honestly. No, I think those are too broad of generalizations… Not every Republican is corrupt. Not every Republican is evil. And I think those statements go too far.”

Hannity said he appreciated Murphy’s “graciousness” (of course he did!) but that “Democrats knew he had this propensity as it relates to the language and exploding and not thinking. Are you embarrassed by this continuous rain of misspeaking here?”

Murphy never really had a chance to answer before Hannity’s turn was up and Alan Colmes took over. Colmes tried the same approach with Republican guest G. Gordon Liddy. Colmes played clips of some of the more hateful rhetoric Republicans have used toward Democrats and asked Liddy if that was the proper way to address the opposition party.

Unlike Murphy, Liddy ducked the question and turned it around. He said the quotes were appropriate to the views of some Democrats, that “the McGovern wing still controls the Democratic party.”

Comment: When are the Democrats going to learn to be just as adept?

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