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“The Irony Of Turkeys Being Excluded”: Here Comes The New (Old) Whine About GOP Debates

Just as the intended lynch mob aimed at Republican debate moderators began to disperse in disarray, we have a new source of candidate complaints and it’s the one that generated the fine old whine we heard earlier in the cycle: the thresholds set for participation in the Main and “undercard” events using national polls. What’s changed are the candidates most affected.

According to CNN Money, two candidates, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie, have been dropped from the Big Stage for failing to average 2.5% in recent national polls, and two others, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, won’t even get a seat at the kiddie table because they didn’t reach 1% in any of them.

Huck can make an argument that he’s totally focused on Iowa, though he’s not exactly on fire even there. And Christie has obviously been concentrating his limited resources on NH, where the latest poll (from WBUR) has him in 5th place with 8%. But the New Jersey governor’s bigger complaint might be that his performance in the CNBC debate, and the video of his rap on addiction that has gone near-viral, show a campaign that has risen from the dead even as some (Jeb! Jeb!) have squandered every advantage.

The two “bumped” candidates pretty much just grumbling right now; this is, after all, Fox we are talking about, and there’s only so much smack you can talk about those guys if you are a Republican who wants to get free exposure on Ailes’ various networks.

The real howling is coming from Graham, who’s come up with this novel reason for being kept on stage to croak War! War! War! like some sort of Low Country raven:

“It is ironic that the only veteran in the race is going to be denied a voice the day before Veterans Day,” Graham campaign manager Christian Ferry said.

I guess if the debate was being held a couple of weeks later a few candidates could salute the irony of turkeys being excluded. Maybe I should feed that line to Donald Trump.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 7, 2015

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The GOP’s Deranged List Of Debate Demands”: Somebody Save Us From Reporters Asking Rude Questions

The Republican debates have been a disaster for some candidates, a boon for others and an uninspiring spectacle for the nation to witness. But don’t blame it all on the moderators.

Not that the questioners are blameless, mind you. It’s true that some of the queries at last week’s CNBC encounter seemed designed to provoke rather than elucidate. Ted Cruz’s memorable characterization of the questions sounded like a parody: “ ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’ ‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’ ” But the moderators, using different words, really did ask those things.

They weren’t crazy questions, though, even if they should have been framed in a less confrontational way.

Trump was asked about the central argument of his candidacy, which is that his brains, energy and competence would allow him to accomplish improbable feats such as building a wall along the southern border and making Mexico pay for it, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants and cutting taxes without increasing the deficit. “Is this a comic-book version of a presidential campaign?” was not the best way to phrase it, but the question was certainly germane.

Carson was asked about math because his proposal for a flat income tax of about 15 percent doesn’t come close to adding up. Kasich was asked his opinion of front-runners Trump and Carson because he had begun the evening with an unprompted attack on the two outsiders as unqualified to be president.

Rubio was asked to respond to an editorial in Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper that cited his absenteeism from Senate floor votes and called on him to resign his seat. The paper’s stance was “evidence of the bias that exists in the American media today,” he said, omitting the fact that the Sun Sentinel endorsed him in his 2010 Senate race.

And as for Bush’s anemic poll numbers, the fact is that he was once considered a strong favorite to win the nomination. The plan was for a “shock and awe” campaign that would overwhelm the field. So far, it has fizzled.

An argument could be made that such horse-race questions are a waste of valuable airtime. But the other lines of inquiry that Cruz blasted in his soliloquy were substantive and legitimate — and apparently made the candidates uncomfortable. Time to put an end to that.

Representatives from all the leading campaigns except one — that of businesswoman Carly Fiorina — met at an Alexandria hotel Sunday night to try to wrest control of future debates from the television networks and the Republican National Committee. The meeting was the brainchild of neurosurgeon Carson, who is running a strong second to Trump in national polls and leading him in first-in-the-nation Iowa. After Trump’s campaign joined in calling for the summit, the others had no choice but to come along.

Carson’s original idea was apparently to have all candidates onstage, including those relegated to the undercard, and for each to give a five-minute opening statement. This would take well over an hour and turn a “debate” into a string of little stump speeches. The fact that television executives would never agree to such terms did not bother Carson’s advisers, who have suggested that the debates be streamed on the Internet instead.

Republican attorney and power broker Ben Ginsberg — who no longer has a horse in this race, following Scott Walker’s withdrawal — chaired the meeting. Ginsberg suggested the hosts be required to make a long list of promises, including not to “ask the candidates to raise their hands to answer a question” or “have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates.”

The RNC decided last week to “suspend” a planned February debate to be hosted by NBC News — CNBC’s parent network — and Telemundo. Bush’s representative reportedly argued that the party should not turn its back on the only Spanish-language network scheduled to participate in a debate. According to Post reporter David Weigel, quoting an attendee, Trump’s campaign manager shot back that if Telemundo were included, “Trump walks.” Sources later told The Post that Trump had decided to negotiate with the networks on his own.

In past cycles, the RNC was the final arbiter. But the party is in chaos and the candidates, led by Trump and Carson, are driving the bus. We’ll face down Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Iran, the contenders all say, but somebody save us from reporters asking rude questions.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 2, 2015

November 4, 2015 Posted by | CNBC Debate, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Failure To Fact Check”: The Real Problem With The CNBC Debate Was The Moderators’ Inability To Call Out The GOP’s Nonsense

Big applause lines: “lamestream media,” a la Sarah Palin, or “Democrats who have the ultimate super PAC, it’s called the mainstream media,” a la Rubio. When in doubt, bash the media.

And it didn’t take long before the Republican National Committee blasted out a press statement that because of the CNBC debate, it was ready to cancel the party’s upcoming NBC debate. Over the weekend, the various campaigns met to “set the rules” about future debates.

Now let me get this straight: the Republicans get 24 million viewers on Fox, 23 million viewers on CNN and 14 million viewers on CNBC – up against the second game of the World Series – and they are complaining? Trump bragged about how he and Ben Carson changed the rules of the CNBC debate by threatening to pull out. Maybe this group would like to determine not only who asks the questions but what the questions are?

But make no mistake, it plays to their base to bash journalists and it also serves to intimidate the media. Sad but true.

If there was a fault with CNBC it was that the moderators were not tough enough on this crowd of candidates. They raised questions that were answered falsely or not at all and did not hold the candidates’ feet to the fire. There simply weren’t enough follow up questions. Whether they were intimidated or did not have the full research in front of them is hard to say, but they should have pushed harder.

Some examples: Cruz would not answer the question about his opposition to the debt limit and instead used his time to attack moderator Carl Quintanilla. Finally, Cruz shot back: “You don’t want to hear the answer.” It reminded me of the great scene in “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson loses it on the stand and shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Cruz should be forced to compare his position on raising the debt limit to Ronald Reagan’s and to that of every other president who understood what it would do to the country if we were to default.

Becky Quick asked Donald Trump about his criticism of Mark Zuckerberg for urging an increase in visas and Trump shot back that it was false. She backed off, but in fact it was true. Trump’s claim got a “Pants on Fire” from Politifact.

Carly Fiorina made the outrageous statement that 92 percent of jobs lost during President Barack Obama’s first term were women’s jobs. Politifact rated that false, and noted that the number of women with jobs actually increased by 416,000.

Ben Carson said it was “total propaganda” to assert he was involved with the disgraced nutritional supplement company, Mannatech, and the anchors had the evidence but, again, did not push back. Politifact also rated Carson’s statements false.

Probably the most important debate should have been on the various tax plans from the candidates. The New York Times editorialized against them,citing the absurdity of the 10 percent and 15 percent flat tax proposals. The effect of the Republicans’ economic policy is the same old trickle down with the biggest tax benefits going to the wealthy who, lord knows, don’t need it. As the Times’ editorial made clear none of the Republicans “has a tax plan coherent enough to be the basis of a substantive discussion, let alone one that could meet the nation’s challenges.”

It is the job of the press and, let’s face it, the Democrats, to point out that this crew of emperors has no clothes.

With all their bashing of the media and the attempt to use it to mobilize their base, it became clear that the Republicans simply did not have the answers. Pollyanish predictions of astronomical economic growth was all they could offer.

The candidates complained afterwards that there wasn’t enough time to talk about substance. Baloney. They simply don’t want hard questions. The most destructive result of all the back and forth after the CNBC debate, complete with the Fox Business Channel attacking CNBC in paid ads, would be if the Republicans intimidate the press and control the format and the questions. After all, this isn’t Russia, the last time I looked.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, November 2, 2015

November 3, 2015 Posted by | CNBC Debate, GOP Primary Debates, Media | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“It Never Pays To Give Bullies What They Want”: Will The Press Recognize The Existential Threat And Fight Back, Or Buckle Under?

It should astonish even the jaded that Republicans are calling CNBC, that stodgy home of supply-side Wall Street cheerleading, an agent of the left.

Still apoplectic at being asked some basic questions at the debate, Republican candidates are doubling down on their freakout.

Ted Cruz is flat-out calling CNBC debate moderators “left-wing operatives” and demanding that right-wing radio hosts moderate their debates, instead.

Donald Trump, who openly lied during the debate about what is on his own website, called debate moderator John Harwood a “dope” and a “fool.”

All of this after Republican candidates spewed forth one of the most embarrassing explosion of lies ever witnessed during a television presidential debate.

The press is facing an existential threat. With Republicans increasingly unashamed to tell grandiose lies and respond to any press criticism with derogatory insults and whines about media bias as well as blackmail threats to cancel appearances if the questions are too tough, the press must decide how to respond on two fronts. First, it must decide how to present an objective face while acknowledging that both sides do not, in fact, behave equally badly. Second, it must determine whether it will continue to ask the tough questions that need answers regardless of the threats made by the GOP, or whether it will meekly submit to the demands for kid-glove treatment.

If the press chooses to assuage and give comfort to the GOP, it will lose what little credibility it has left. The Republican base will never accept mainstream journalists as fair arbiters–but the rest of us will lose what little respect we still have for them. If the press stands up to the bullies and calls out GOP tactics and untruths for what they are, they will gain in respect what they lose from conservative hatemongers in the perceived objectivity department.

The choice is clear: stand strong and call out the lies as they are, or fall further into the abyss as the Republican Party ramps up its threats and insults. It never pays to give a bully what they want, unless the bully has absolute power over you. The GOP does not hold that sort of power over the press. Indeed, the GOP has far more to fear from the press than the other way around.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 1.2015

November 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP Primary Debates, Press, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“CNBC Is The Perfect Scapegoat For The GOP’s 2016 Problems”: Candidates Who Blow It In A Debate Have Only Themselves To Blame

The third GOP presidential debate, held Wednesday evening in Colorado, revealed two key truths: The political media has declared war on several Republican candidates, and the candidates have declared war on the political media.

The GOP’s gripes against the media are legion. Over the past several election cycles, they have reached a fever pitch, with the presidential debates largely to blame. The problem, from a Republican standpoint, was epitomized by Candy Crowley’s intervention on behalf of President Obama during his crucial second debate with Mitt Romney in 2012. Reeling from a limp and lackluster performance the first time around, Obama needed to beat Romney on foreign policy; Crowley upended Romney’s plans by jumping into their exchange on the administration’s shifting talking points around the Benghazi attack, and essentially siding with Obama.

Long critical of the “lamestream media,” as Sarah Palin once called it, conservatives reserve a particular ire for debate moderators, who do, after all, command an outsized ability to influence how presidential candidates perform and are perceived.

So when Ted Cruz crushed the CNBC moderators Wednesday night, the resulting applause — in the studio and across the conservative internet — was not particularly surprising. The other candidates all quickly caught on. Chris Christie jumped at the chance to wryly cry rude. Donald Trump hooked his closing argument around the way he muscled the network into improving the debate’s format. Even Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz got into the act, railing against a CNBC producer about the distribution of speaking time. (Bush came in last.)

But the debate-bashing crescendo came courtesy of Ben Carson, whose own campaign manager, Barry Bennett, said he detests the traditional format and wants to rally the field to demand an anti-lamestream reboot. “There’s not enough time to talk about your plans,” Bennett griped. “There’s no presentation. It’s just a slugfest. All we do is change moderators. And the trendline is horrific. So I think there needs to be wholesale change here.”

Those critiques are legit. Whether you’re a beltway insider or just a Twitter junkie, you know well that debate season is a time for gallows humor, morbid drinking games, and existential boredom among the political media itself.

Embittered conservatives might say that suggests how endemic the cynicism and hypocrisy of that crowd has become. But from the standpoint of a sympathetic political writer, it’s not that simple.

The fact is that quite often, candidates who blow it in a debate have only themselves to blame. In part, that’s because the media just likes to reward winners. Whether it’s Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, or Mitt Romney in his first showdown with Obama, good performances get good press. In larger part, it’s because the media loves to punish losers. Candidates who do okay but turn off the media — like Trump — don’t pay much of a price in the horserace. Candidates who have a rotten debate night — like Bush — do. And when they do, it’s almost never because of a Crowley-esque act of butting in. It’s because the debate is a crucible, however clumsy, where a candidate’s behind-the-scenes struggles are revealed.

Consider Jeb Bush’s one big mistake last night, the one that defined the evening, cemented the narrative, and possibly sank his campaign. Looking for an opportunity to deliver a canned attack on Rubio’s spotty Senate attendance record — a talking point his campaign has been stressing in recent days — Bush let loose: “When you signed up for this, this was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work. I mean literally, the Senate, what is it, a French work week? You get like three days where you have to show up. You can campaign or just resign and let somebody else take the job.” With Rubio flush from his own knock on the debate moderators, Bush’s dig was both weak and poorly timed — and it resulted in this killer rejoinder: “I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record; the only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that it’s going to help you,” Rubio said.

Game, set, match. That one exchange led everyone from The Weekly Standard‘s Jonathan Last to Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie to pronounce Bush politically dead. A judgment that harsh, across that broad a political spectrum, doesn’t indicate a new low for D.C.’s smug and jaded smart set. It doesn’t discredit today’s (admittedly dumb) debate format. And it doesn’t indict the media elite literally running the show. It reveals that Jeb Bush couldn’t prevent a horrendously unforced error — at this stage, proof of far bigger problems than bad timing or flimsy opposition research.

For all their problems, the debates — and those who run them — can only do so much damage to Republican candidates onstage. On debate night, the real lamestream doesn’t run through the political media, but through campaigns that could use some wholesale change of their own.

 

By: James Poulos, The Week, October 29, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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