About That Final GOP Debate…

“Hillary Clinton will do anything to gain and hang on to power, anything…. [N]ow she is trying for the White House. She is probably more qualified for the ‘Big House’, honestly. She has escaped prosecution more times than El Chapo; perhaps Sean Penn should interview her.”  — Carly Fiorina

Candidates at the "main event"

Candidates at the “main event”

Since I skipped commenting on the last couple of GOP debates, I figured I better say a couple things about this final one. This time, I watched the beginning of the “undercard” debate, then most of the “main event” (except for the last 20 minutes). At various times, I was pleased, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, impressed, and confused. Sometimes, all at once. There were a few good soundbytes (e.g., Rubio: “Sanders would be a great president… for Sweden.”; also, the above quote by Fiorina) and times I just wished they would shut up and move on (e.g., Cruz vs. Rubio on immigration policy; or, Cruz doing his best Trump-ian whine about the moderators).

What was up with the moderators (especially Megyn Kelly) being so combative? “Gotcha” questions and snark are bad enough. But, fer cryin’ out loud, since when is the “moderator” supposed to argue with the candidates beyond matters of time-keeping and protocol? Also, as The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway (see below) summed up:

“Let’s drop questions that ask, “Would you like to apologize?” or “Would you like to revise your remarks?” They just come off horribly. And question the assumptions to your questions. So many false and disputable claims are built into questions.”

I’m really tired of the current “debate” format….

I was a bit disappointed in my man Cruz. He had some good responses and his Trump joke in the beginning was great. I was also impressed with his boldness re ethanol in front of the pro-subsidy crowd. But, I’m afraid his negatives may have cancelled out or even out-shown his positives. So, I seriously doubt this debate gave him the push he needed to really make Trump sweat. Speaking of…

The best part was Trump’s absence. Without him being the focus of so much attention, the others got to spend more time fight… er, I mean, have exchanges on substantial policy issues. Or, as Hemingway put it, “Trump’s absence… elevated the discourse substantially.” (Charles Krauthammer and others agree.) Most of the candidates had one or more pretty good moments, in re rhetoric/performance and/or substance. (Even Kasich!) But, I just don’t have it in me to do a full analysis. So, I’d like to refer you to a few others that I thought had pretty good commentaries with which I mostly agree.

Allen West: “Here’s what I think about Donald Trump skipping last night’s debate…”

Mollie Hemingway: “6 Quick Takeaways From GOP Debate In Iowa”

Response Action Network: “Des Moines Debate Winners and Losers”

Finally, I’d like to go back to the matter of the debate format. I brought this up in a previous post, too, in which I said,

“I am frustrated with the format for these “debates”. In fact, I like Allen West’s idea:

“[O]ver a week-long period, have a format where each presidential candidate is grilled for a 45-minute period by a two-person team. That way we cut down on the ridiculous back and forth and it’s just about the candidate and the issues. Sadly, the problem is we, the American public, have turned our political scene into a reality TV show and the media plays to that all for the holy grail of ratings.”

If we can’t have that, then I’d like to see a few debates focused solely on one or two issues (e.g., military/foreign policy, jobs & the economy, illegal immigration & domestic security, “social issues”) to help us distinguish the candidates from each other. Some actual one-on-one debates might be helpful, too. For example, Cruz vs. Kasich, Paul vs. Christie, Trump vs. Fiorina, Jindal vs. Graham, etc.”

GOP candidates in "undercard"

GOP  “undercard” candidates

I would like to reiterate my favoring of a series of *real*, one-on-one debates, where two candidates each present their position to the audience on a given topic, then the candidates give timed responses and replies to each other, like in a formal debate. That way, there is less of a free-for-all atmosphere, everyone gets to address all of the issues, and the exchanges are more focused.

However, if the primary debates must continue in the current format, then randomly split the candidates into two equal groups each time. That way, 1) no one is diminished and they all get to be on equal footing; and, 2) we get a different dynamic each time, with less chance of always hearing the same pairs of people going at it. Also, please make sure each debate is clearly focused on one or two specific areas of policy (as they try to do, now). Others have suggested, and I agree, that someone other than the network anchors should moderate. We need more “objective” journalists — perhaps a liberal and conservative pair — to ask substantive, hard-hitting but non-gotcha questions, without trying to pit the candidates against one another in order to boost ratings. (If it happens, it happens.)

OK, I’m done.


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