It was an unusually inane question, which Paul Begala handled very, very well.
"Because the press won't do its job, John..... It is the media's job when a politician flat out lies like she's doing on this bridge to nowhere so call her on it. Or this matter of earmarks where she's attacking Barack Obama for having earmarks, when she was the mayor of little Wasilla, Alaska, 6,000 people, she hired a lobbyist who was connected to Jack Abramoff, who is a criminal, and they brought home $27 million in earmarks. She carried so much pork home she got trichinosis. But we in the media are letting her tell lies about her record."
At that point, Roberts did what CNN tends to do -- turn to a Republican to offer a competing side to the truth. In this case, Alex Castellanos said the media should be "a little gentle" with Sarah Palin's obviously false claims. "The amazing thing about Sarah Palin is when she became governor she actually stood up and said no" to federal pork, he said.
So, again, Begala tried to set the record straight.
"That's just not true. You know, John, the facts matter. There's lots of things that are debatable who is more qualified or less experienced or more this or more passionate, whatever. It is a fact that she campaigned and supported that bridge to nowhere. It is a fact that she hired lobbyists to get earmarks. It is a fact that as governor she lobbies for earmarks. Her state is essentially a welfare state taking money from the federal government."
Roberts wrapped up the segment, concluding, "We still have 56 days to talk about this back and forth."
But therein lies the point. The nation doesn't need 56 days of "back and forth." We don't need 56 seconds of "back and forth." There's an objective truth here, and CNN, as a neutral, independent news source, is supposed to tell viewers what the facts are.
But CNN can't do that, because reality has a well known liberal bias. If Roberts conceded that Begala was telling the truth about demonstrable facts, then he'd be "taking sides." For a media figure to acknowledge that a candidate for national office is lying shamelessly would be wholly unacceptable -- it would break with the "balance" between competing arguments.
The viewer at home hears one side, then the other. Who's right? That's not CNN's problem. If viewers wants to hear an argument, they can turn to CNN. If viewers wants to know which side of the argument is right, they can look elsewhere.
Which is precisely why candidates for national office feel comfortable lying shamelessly in the first place.
And which is why the candidate telling the truth can't get the story to "stick."