You Can’t Have a Substantive Debate Unless You Have Substantive Candidates


TPM’s Caitlin MacNeal published the full text of Reince Priebus’ letter to NBC pulling out of their slated February debate and there is, not surprisingly, what you might call a not-so-subtle disconnect between the debate we saw and the debate he’s describing. The debate we all saw was a candidate free-for-all in which they treated the moderators – and the audience – with blistering contempt. They interrupted each other, refused to pay any attention to time constraints or the “rules” they themselves had demanded, yelled at each other, and generally acted like grade school bullies on a tear. But that isn’t the debate Priebus apparently saw.

The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith.

Really? How’s that?

CNBC billed the debate as one that would focus on “the key issues that matter to all voters—job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy.” That was not the case.

Well, Reince, they tried. Give them credit for that. But look what happened when they did.  Asked for details as you request, they either answered by asserting generalities without explaining anything or they ignored the question entirely and went off on pre-scripted irrelevant rants.

Questions were inaccurate or downright offensive.

Inaccurate how, Reince? Was Quick’s question asking Carson to explain his economic program because the numbers didn’t add up – which they don’t, not even close – inaccurate? No, it was not. But more importantly, look at Carson’s answer: It will work because I say it will work. Asked how he would build his border wall, Trump answered: I’ll do it. It’ll be easy. Then he compared it to the Great Wall of China. Like, what?!

The fault, dear Reince, lies not in the moderators but in the candidates, and it’s simply stated:

YOU CAN’T HAVE A SUBSTANTIVE DEBATE WITHOUT SUBSTANTIVE CANDIDATES.

And you don’t have any, Reince. What you’ve got are faith-based imagineers who are comfortable with loopy theories and wide swaths of non-specific generalizations and unproven assertions. None of them DO detail. Asked for it, they think they’re being attacked. All of your candidates are lightweight and ignorant. None of them has the remotest idea what govt does or how it does it, and none of them give a shit about learning.

While debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates’ visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of “gotcha” questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates. What took place Wednesday night was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas.

The moderators – any moderators – can’t do it in a vacuum. Those questions were NOT “petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.” They were attempting to elicit “policies and ideas” except your candidates don’t have any. Their collected economic policies could be written on a napkin, and not one of them has at any point in their careers come up with an idea that wasn’t old when Reagan was a baby.

Give it up, Reince. It’s hopeless. PR and marketing spin notwithstanding, you can’t make them something they’re not. Maybe you ought to consider Cruz’s suggestion and hire Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck as your next moderators. It’ll still be a trainwreck but more fun to watch.

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