The Corner

Politics & Policy

Bad Debates With Bad Moderators Can Be Edifying, Too

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Bad Debates With Bad Moderators Can Be Edifying, Too

Maybe the best thing you can say about last night’s debate is that the GOP candidates demonstrated they could get through two hours of mostly hostile questioning.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus is getting a lot of grief this morning, with people contending he should never have agreed to have CNBC host a debate. Remember, before this cycle, any media entity could announce they were hosting a debate and the candidates decided whether they wanted to show up. This is how we ended up with 20 debates in 2012. The big change with the RNC-set schedule is that MSNBC didn’t get a debate at all. The next one is on Fox Business; after that it’s CNN again, Fox News again, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News/Telemundo – with National Review participating – then Fox News again, then CNN again. 

You hear a lot of “we should have [insert conservative media entity here] host a debate”, and as mentioned above, National Review will be playing a role in the one in Houston. But the cost of putting on a debate is about $2 million. Most conservative entities don’t have that kind of cash lying around, and the networks won’t kick in if they don’t get the broadcast rights and resulting advertising revenue. There are some interesting discussions going on about non-network options – remember, last week Yahoo broadcast an NFL game – but for now, if you want a debate to be seen, you need a television network as a partner.

The good news is, the RNC hears the complaints from Republicans watching:

“While I was proud of our candidates and the way they handled tonight’s debate, the performance by the CNBC moderators was extremely disappointing and did a disservice to their network, our candidates, and voters. Our diverse field of talented and exceptionally qualified candidates did their best to share ideas for how to reinvigorate the economy and put Americans back to work despite deeply unfortunate questioning from CNBC,” said Chairman Priebus.

“One of the great things about our party is that we are able to have a dynamic exchange about which solutions will secure a prosperous future, and I will fight to ensure future debates allow for a more robust exchange. CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled.”

This was indisputably the worst-moderated debate of this young cycle, and perhaps the worst-moderated debate ever. Brent Bozell called it “an encyclopedic example of liberal media bias on stage.” If the moderators at the next Democratic debate exhibit one-half of the hostility, skepticism and disdain that the CNBC ones did last night, Hillary, Sanders and O’Malley will have on-stage meltdowns. As Jonah observed, it’s fascinating that Marco Rubio gets a question about his personal finances long after that New York Times story generated scoffing and skepticism, while Hillary Clinton didn’t get a single question about donors to the Clinton Foundation and conveniently-timed State Department policy changes. 

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