by Melissa Parkin
Following the third Republican Debate, both liberal and conservative minds alike can agree on one thing: the evening was an utter disaster. Those words would naturally imply that the candidates bombed in glorious fashion, but in a rare turn of events, it’s in fact CNBC’s moderators who are to blame. How on earth did this all go down?
Given the fact that the stage held ten candidates and that the debate was renegotiated to run for only two hours versus the previously slated three, the limited time would prove infinitely tricky in terms of questioning, the length allowed for a response, and when to permit a rebuttable. Clearly, moderators John Harwood, Becky Quick, and Carl Quintanilla couldn’t effectively run the program, given that the entire first half of the debate resulted in the candidates barely being allowed to interact with their fellow opponents, which led to random moments of loud cross-talk; it could be called cacophonous.
Things took a turn for the ugly when Senator Ted Cruz was asked whether his opposition to a budget agreement reached in Washington this week revealed that he is “not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?”
“The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media,” Cruz responded. “This is not a cage match. ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don't you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’”
Cruz finished by adding, “How about talking about the substantive issues?”
And that point was right on target. Going into a presidential debate, you know that the questions aren’t going to be like Monty Python & the Holy Grail, where “what’s your favorite color?” is the hardest subject you’ll face. The questions asked last night though were all rather worded quite poorly, showed blatant contempt to its respondents, or were substantially irrelevant to American voters…like being asked about Fantasy Football. Yes, Fantasy Football! Because of this unprofessionalism, the candidates were allowed to dance around tougher questions by simply remarking on the moderators’ incivility, essentially playing a game of political I’m Rubber, You’re Glue. Things didn’t get any better as the moderators showed increased hostility towards the candidates, in which Governor Chris Christie hammered the final nail into the coffin when Harwood continued with his snide questioning.
“Do you want to answer, or do you want me to answer?” Christie shot back. “Because I got to tell you the truth, even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.”
The best out of the three Republican debates was undoubtedly the second, which was hosted by CNN. Why might that be? Because it remained fair and balanced. Based on surveys taken back in January, 43% of the American public identifies themselves as politically independent. It’s no surprise that news networks show bias towards certain political standings, and it only becomes more apparent during debates. This cripples the effectiveness of hosting, given that the networks are immediately discriminating against that forty-three percent, who genuinely wish to know which (if any) of the candidates’ policies and opinions match their own.
Apparently, CNBC’s moderators didn’t take any notes from the CNN debate, because they ignored all the qualities that Anderson Cooper brought to the table. CNN’s renowned anchor and journalist conducted himself with the equality and objectiveness required for the role. His inquiries spanned across the entire spectrum of conservative and liberal issues, putting the Republican candidates in the position to discuss their own polices, but forced them to also tackle sensitive subject matters that may influence potential voters. To say that CNBC dropped the ball on this would be putting it lightly. This was the perfect chance to ask progressive questions about race, women’s rights, climate change, and gay rights that have little chance of being covered in the next debate held by Fox News.
Ultimately, the third Republican Debate served as great, shocking entertainment, but serviced no one in terms of substance. It was ultimately round after round of playground antics, despite the room being made up of adult men and women. Because of the unconventional and very shoddy programming, the standards of declaring a winner here are impossible to implement. The CNBC moderators wound up looking extremely unprofessional, the Democrats gained no political ammunition, the Republicans are no closer to narrowing down the list of candidates, and independent voters remain grossly uninformed of the Republicans’ standpoints. Whether you are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, there’s no denying that this was one of the most painful viewing experiences in recent political history.