If you totally missed the debates last night and were only skimming news about them today—or, one supposes, you did see the debates and were skimming headlines anyway—you would be forgiven for thinking nothing happened on the debates except for an epic collapse of media dignity. And you’d be forgiven because that’s precisely what occurred.Normally, long-time readers know, the Czar writes up his day-after musings on the debates, but frankly there was nothing significant to write about in terms of the candidates, their policies, or their performances (except for one, which we shall get to in a bit). Last night’s debate was only about the utterly horrible behavior exhibited by the moderators.
CNBC opted to have three moderators—it doesn’t matter what their names were at this point—who were shrill, exposed nerves of Democratic support. This wasn’t about the Republicans at all: it was a Me Me Me show, all about your wonderful moderators, who ought to be as well-known as any Hollywood A-listers, household names that all of you should worship, and boy, were they going to put these ugly, stupid Republican bastards in their place!
That was the plan, anyway. The moderators talked over the candidates, flagrantly interrupted, argued with them Candy Crowley-like over trivia, eye-rolled, sighed, sniffed, and were pretty much a kangaroo court held in a high school commons area. The Czar is not exaggerating; if you watched the debates, you understand the Czar’s premise that CNBC took a serious hit to its credibility. Ratings for that network will sag further, momentarily, and executives there probably won’t fire or even apologize for the three assholes who moderated the thing, but you can bet management is meeting today to talk about serious spin control. So far they haven’t done it—CNBC put out a whiny little message this morning that maybe the GOP needs to toughen up a bit; even so, each of the three moderators has been curiously absent off social media.
The bottom line is that the Democrats will probably also insist on serious rule changes if they ever plan to debate on CNBC. The Republicans will likely never go to that network again for a long time. The problem wasn’t that the moderators exhibited poor behavior here and there, like CNN; the problem was that their badgering, hectoring, and teenage-like angst over everything was constant.
Senator Ted Cruz went first, pointing out how obviously bad the moderation was. Senator Marco Rubio went further, saying that the biggest SuperPAC in the world is the mainstream media. Donald Trump—who was refreshingly downbeat in this debate—initially squandered his closing statement to boast about how he and Dr. Carson forced CNBC to change the format of the debate—but it was a successful ruse to get one of the thin-skinned moderators to snidely correct him on that point. Except, of course, Trump was correct about his claim, and Trump called the moderator a liar on air. Twice.
But the turning point was Governor Chris Christie. When Governor Jeb Bush stupidly stumbled through an incoherent and utterly non-conservative answer on the urgent need to regulate fantasy football, Christie went nuts. To riotous applause, he spelled out all the very real dangers facing America today, here and abroad, and accused the moderators of planting a fantasy football question in there because they were terrified of the Republicans on stage when it came to real issues.
Yes, this was an applause line, but it changed the entire debate. Suddenly, instead of Jeb Bush needling Marco Rubio, or John Kasich poking Donald Trump, the entire stage turned on the Democrats. Precisely what was needed: Rubio built on that, saying that there were all good candidates on this stage, any of whom was superior to the Democrats entire line up. Kasich agreed that the Democrats were intellectually bankrupt, Christie pointed out the large overlaps the Republicans share, which make them terrifying to socialists, and so on. Just about all of them used their closing statements to either berate the media’s cowardice of Hillary Clinton, or to stipulate that the Republicans are putting forth ideas and not tired socialism bullet points.
Christie put the moderators on the defense. And this is overdue: the media has been pulling the GOP’s strings the entire time. While—as the Czar mentioned earlier this week—the Democrats are triangulating and coordinating, the GOP is making fun of Trump’s neckties. Christie got the far-too-many candidates talking about the Democrats, and it got kind of scary at last. And indeed, even the liberal media heads are all talking about it (even if the Washington Post idiotically sided with the moderators).
Time to go: Kasich (who is apparently only running against Donald Trump), Huckabee (nothing new; just his old tentpole preacher act), Paul (anything you liked about Paul, Ted Cruz is able to deliver), and Bush (who looked awful last night and exhibited the real desperation his campaign is facing).
Moving up: None. All other candidates basically held their ground.