In the aftermath of the smoking mountain of #FAIL that was the CNBC-hosted GOP debate, the candidates have taken the lead in deciding what the rules should be for future debates. I’m agnostic on what the rules should be and so long as the candidates can agree on them I’m fine with it.
The New York Times, however, gets all screechy-voice-wetty-pants at the idea.
In a 97-page report, they concluded: “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.” Here’s what the study said about presidential debates: “No debate will be meaningful if it is not challenging, vigorous and fair.”
Late Sunday, representatives of a dozen Republican presidential candidates, who were frothing over their treatment in last week’s debate, shut the Republican National Committee out of a meeting during which they essentially chucked its earlier guidance out the window. To please Donald Trump, who pledges to build a 1,000-mile wall between the United States and Mexico and boycott any debate sponsored by the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo, these Republicans want to scrap the only debate to be hosted by Latino media.
They agreed on kid-glove treatment for Fox News, the G.O.P.’s go-to outlet for “ideological reinforcement to like-minded people.” For other outlets interested in hosting a debate, they’re finalizing a list of demands. If these candidates get their way, they’ll ban media behaviors, including: asking the candidates to raise their hands to answer a question (Donald Trump again); asking yes/no questions “without time to provide a substantive answer”; showing audience or moderator reaction to candidates’ answers; and showing “an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are).”
There are several misconceptions in this editorial.
First, these debates are aimed at GOP primary voters. Sure a lot of other people are watching and that is a good thing. The more we can contrast young and active candidates with new ideas to the sclerotic collection of socialists competing for the Democrat nomination the better off we are. But ultimately, the message of these candidates is directed at GOP primary voters.
Second, unless the debate is going to be conducted in Spanish… and I’d pay good money to watch that… I am at a loss to explain why anyone thought hosting an English language debate on Spanish-language media made a bit of sense. If Univision or Telemundo want to cover a debate they should subscribe to the feed from a network that is carrying a debate.
The third, and most important, point is that these debates have nothing to do with the media. The various networks would compete to carry these debates, no matter what the conditions, because of the advertising revenue. Does anyone really think that CNBC and Fox drew the largest audiences in their history because the viewer wanted to watch the moderators? No. They didn’t. There are a lot of great sources for moderators out there who actually a) know something about the issues and b) don’t have an ideological ax to grind.
Now it’s the R.N.C. that has been marginalized. If malcontent candidates get their way, the party leadership will be all but shut out of the planning for debates, a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates. The debates are too important to be guided by a daffy document drafted by hotheads, demanding media outlets “pledge” that the temperature in the debate hall “be kept below 67 degrees.”
The ridiculous manifesto drafted Sunday is undergoing revision. The R.N.C. would do well to exert whatever influence it has. It is the party’s job, not the media’s, to save the Republican presidential candidates from themselves.
The debates thus far have been a disappointment. They have been viewed by the networks as a “star vehicle” for their moderators who then ask ridiculous and ill-informed questions in an effort to embarrass the candidates and to help elect Hillary Clinton. What the candidates are trying to do, because the RNC is either unable, unwilling, or incapable of functioning at any level of competency above “self-loathing imbecile” is ensure the American people get a chance to hear from the candidates on issues of importance to Americans. The New York Times knows this is the case and they are terrified.