Thursday, September 17, 2015

CNN: Debate or bashfest

How many times have you heard someone say, “I went to the fights last night and a hockey game broke out.” Or at a football game where the officials are the story and the players aren’t really allowed to play.

After the first debate, I said that I thought that Fox News put on a professional debate and they were the clear winner. Last nights debate was an embarrassment for CNN. You’d be hard pressed to find a sound byte of one of the candidates where you don’t hear Jake Tapper saying “Thank you Governor”, or “Thank you Senator” to stop; them from talking. Where were Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt?

With eleven candidates on stage and only three hours for the debate for those eleven, it’s understandable that their time would have to be limited on each question, but some sort of a warning that they were going over would be appropriate. Talking over them and the last sentence or two that they are trying to say is annoying at best. Using a light as a warning their time was running out would have been good. A short bell when their time expired would be good, but to interrupt them where you couldn’t understand what was being said was not very professional.

CNN created their own problems with this debate. First, the qualifications for the candidates to earn their spot on the stage was flawed. Originally, CNN said they would use the average of the polls dating back to July. This meant that a candidate from the bottom performers would have a harder time moving up and it appeared it would work out unfairly for Carly Fiorina. She clearly impressed everyone in the early Fox debate which was sometimes called the kids table. Her numbers were moving up, but what was dragging her down were the polls prior to the debate.

CNN went politically correct after the criticism started coming up. They were leaving out a woman because her early polls when she wasn’t very well known were holding her back. So CNN knuckled under and created a change in the rules so that she could qualify. But they apparently thought they would be unfair if they had to remove someone else with this new “special exemption” for Fiorina. So they added her rather than eliminating the lowest candidate with their new criteria.

Had they left it alone, Fiorina actually did qualify even under their first set of guidelines. Had they left it alone, Fiorina would have bumped out either Chris Christie or Rand Paul. But by creating the exemption, worried about the feelings of whoever would be knocked off the big stage. So either Rand Paul or Chris Christie were onstage when they shouldn’t have. CNN’s political correctness helped a white man. That’s not likely ever their intention.

CNN created another problem. Their stated intention was to get the candidates to do battle against each other. They wanted the knock down drag out fight between the candidates. Perhaps they thought it would help the Democrats, or help their ratings, or create news for their Sunday program and all of their political programs leading up to Sundays talk show. However, with all of that time spent trying to get the candidates into a fistfight on stage, we didn’t hear about the economy, the $18 trillion debt, social security failing, and veterans dying while waiting for the doctors to see them.  Compare this to how Fox handled  their questions.

During the Fox debate, the moderators asked questions of the candidates about their own words that they seem to have changed over time. For instance, someone was asked about their abortion views and how they are different from what they used to be. However, CNN decided they were going to ask a candidate about what another candidate said about them and then said “how do you want to respond to them about what they said”. CNN was trying to create news rather than reporting news that came from the debate without prodding.

To the candidates credit, for the most part, they didn’t take the bait. The perfect example was Carly Fiorina. She was asked about Donald Trumps comment about her face and being President. She made the comment that Trump had heard Jeb Bush on another topic, and that the women of this country had heard what Trump said. She didn’t talk about his hair, or his lack of humility.

On the other hand, right out of the gate, Rand Paul and Donald Trump had a brief face spitting contest. Later in the debate, the candidates began to get a little testy, especially Chris Christie with his comments about how the people don’t care about Trumps and Fiorina’s careers, while talking about his past as a U.S. Attorney.

The candidates for the most part were the class act on CNN. CNN’s structure of the debate was flawed and embarrassing.

Last night, people tuned in to see a fight and a debate broke out. However, even for this political junkie, a three hour debate is too long.

Two cuts from the debate that impressed me.

You’re welcome to comment.


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