Perhaps I’m old fashioned, and my expectations of political candidates are at odds with what is expected these days, but I think the GOP field, and the RNC, have made a calculated error in their recent criticism of CNBC’s moderation of their most recent debate, and their suspension of further moderation by the NBC network. And while I understand the level of frustration caused by the lack of individual face and response time in televised debates, these are not paid infomercials for the candidates. There are too many candidates, and that’s one problem. But it seems like what the candidates want now is the opportunity to determine the questions in advance, and avoid having to answer on the spot, on their feet. Silly me. I thought that was the whole purpose of a presidential campaign debate.
We’ve long since abandoned the rules and form of debates when it comes to politics. Enforcing the time limits, and the rules, and sticking to some kind of expected form for scoring and evaluation was never really the goal of a political debate, anyway. The idea is to put candidates together so that people can see where they differ, and observe their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the responses. For me, the best debates are those that take place once the parties have named their nominees, and the general election is coming. These debates with candidates lining the stage, and each one getting perhaps five minutes, while the dominant candidates interrupt, and attract the attention away from others, aren’t doing much except frustrating everyone, and precipitating attacks on the stage, and then later on when the dominant candidates hog the interview time.
Personally, I think scattering the debates among several media outlets, to bring in a variety of questioning techniques and perspectives, was an excellent idea, and fits with what the party should be trying to accomplish in these days before the primaries begin. The whining began early, when Donald Trump attacked Megyn Kelly and the Fox News debate team following the first debate which they moderated. Fox News? Really? They weren’t exactly easy on the candidates, though the line of questioning was certainly much more compatible with the GOP’s expressed views, and the rest of the candidates were more comfortable with it.
At some point, the President of the United States is going to have to deal with up front, open, honest, and sometimes incredibly biased questioning from the media. Whining about it is the least effective response. Most of the candidates did shift their response, when they sensed where the questions were going, and planned their strategic responses, in order to stay on focus and keep their message coming forward. The problem, of course, was that they didn’t really have the time they needed to come across that way. So, when the tension broke, and frustration hit the ceiling, a few of the candidates hid behind the “liberal biased media” accusation, and let that become their debate statement.
In the long run, that’s not a good idea. The core base will agree, but across the board, the base doesn’t have enough votes to win a general election for you.
Can you imagine Ronald Reagan whining about the questions he was asked in a Presidential debate? This is his party. Hopefully, someone in the field of candidates will start acting like it is.