What we saw two nights ago at the second GOP debate was an absolute monstrosity and a disgrace to every American voter. Politics, and most importantly the presidency, isn’t about who is best in a shouting match. It’s about expertise in public policy, service, and leadership. Few exhibited any in the second debate.
The candidates were fired up and took shots at each other, but they aren’t the only ones to blame for what unraveled Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The electorate can thank CNN for what may have been the worst presidential debate in our country’s history. Debate moderator Jake Tapper asked baiting questions all night, forcing the republican candidates to bicker back and forth at each other in what felt like a debate that would never end, or perhaps should have ended before it began.
Tapper’s moronic inquiries came early and often, and his follow up questions disallowed candidates from avoiding the pointless arguments he was trying to create. When candidates tried to deflect Tapper’s bait and provide a real policy response to the issues, Tapper would restate his original question, which almost always asked a candidate to respond to another candidate’s comments to the media. If the candidate continued to deflect the question to stay out of the uncontrollable disputes, Tapper would then again restate his question, trying as hard as he could to create personal attacks on stage.
And, for the most part, that was the entire debate in a nutshell. The candidates wanted to talk about policy and the real issues burdening our nation, but all Tapper and CNN were concerned with was making the republican presidential hopefuls battle it out in a test of egos. When they finally got on policy issues, Tapper would turn to a new candidate and prompt them to respond to another candidate’s badmouthing of their campaign.
Perhaps CNN realized prior to the debate what a nuisance Donald Trump is to the Republican Party, and that his presence in the race is taking votes away from the real, qualified candidates in the running. So, to keep his sideshow in action (and to promote ratings) the network tried its hardest to keep intellectual policy conversation out of the debate, giving Trump a fighting chance. When Trump was prompted by Hugh Hewitt, one of the three journalists allowed on stage, to give real answers about who would be in his cabinet, who he has done business with, and how he would implement is policy suggestions, Trump offered the same old, uneducated rhetoric he has used since his campaign announcement at the Trump Tower.
Outside of Tapper and CNN’s shameful hosting, the most entertaining act was Trump every time he opened his mouth. He began the debate by saying that Rand Paul, one of the most intellectual and educated candidates on stage, didn’t belong in the debate because he was only polling at 1%. Trump answered every question with a generalized statement about why people agree with him, how he will make us great again, and how everyone will respect us. Trump provided these responses even in the few questions he received that required knowledge of policy to accurately respond.
Who stood out most was Carly Fiorina, who was the only candidate on stage that gave thoughtful and substantial policy proposals in the debate nearly every time she spoke. With her quick wit, she turned aside the harsh comments from Trump and turned to attack Hillary Clinton and Obama administration, brilliant moves to connect with republican voters. She made honest connections with viewers, and proved that she is strong enough (but mostly smart enough) to put Trump on the ropes and make him think on his feet.
The next GOP presidential debate is slated for Oct. 28th, hosted by CNBC. Let’s hope that by then, CNBC has hammered out some real questions on public policy, and has learned from CNN that it is the candidates, not the network, that viewers are tuning in for.