Weak moderators lead to disaster

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Daniel Maibenco, Columnist

 

The Republican debate held Wednesday, Oct. 28 was a total, utter disaster.

There is no other way to describe it. The debate was not a disaster because the candidates failed to deliver excitement and poignant opinions. The debate collapsed because the CNBC moderators were grossly underprepared and naïve to believe that this would not become an issue.

Predictably, it did.

Moderating any presidential debate is hard. But the moderators are supposed to keep everyone, including themselves, on track. Every question and answer needs to pertinent and relevant.

I really didn’t know how to make out the debate as I watched it unfold. It wasn’t just a game of wits or cleverness, but just a bloodbath of words.

One major sticking point of the night was the exchange between Ben Carson and Carl Quintanilla. Quintanilla questioned Carson on his association with Mannatech, a nutritional supplement company.

Carson said he has supported the company in the past but would not push its agenda if elected president. When Quintanilla continued to press Carson after he answered the question, the studio audience heavily booed him.

Quintanilla was looking to entrap Carson into making some sort of false statement. It looked like the moderator didn’t like what he was hearing and tried to do something about it. Even if that is not what Quintanilla was doing, it sure looked like it.

Another observation from the debate was the general rudeness towards candidate Chris Christie. It was bad enough that he kept getting cut off and interrupted, but one remark seemed to really upset him – he was unnerved when he was asked about his fantasy football team.

I can’t blame him for going berserk at being asked such a question. With issues such as terror and immigration, fantasy football is not relevant to being president. I, like many other people,  enjoy sports, but personal preference on sports teams means nothing here. The fantasy football question was so stupid that I still cannot understand why it was even asked.

My third remark from the debate regards the exchange between Marco Rubio and John Harwood. Harwood criticized Rubio’s proposed tax plan saying that it would help the richest one percent more than it would help the middle class.

He went into a massive tirade, but failed to grasp Rubio’s objections. Rubio pointed out to Harwood that he was wrong. Harwood wrote an article about Rubio’s tax plan two weeks ago, but the media soundly called on him to correct it because he was mistaken.

It is bad enough to be told you are wrong on an issue in the public sphere, but to knowingly re-hash the issue in the debate was wrong. This made Harwood look egotistical or just blatantly out-of-touch.

If I’m told I’m wrong on something, I just move on. Harwood knew he was wrong in his opinion, but still tried to put Rubio in a corner. If Harwood wants to use dirty tactics like that in the debate, then he is just pathetic.

Carson, Christie and Rubio were not the only candidates unfairly treated, but their exchanges were the most memorable. Trump and Cruz also experienced bias, but these two didn’t have to say much to get their points across.

When called upon, Cruz skewered the moderators and the media bias, saying the questions show why Americans don’t trust the media.

He said the debate shouldn’t be a cage match. Instead, it was a debacle. It was a hell of CNBC’s own doing. The moderators either didn’t think they would scrutinized by the candidates as well as the public, or they simply didn’t care.

No one from CNBC has apologized for the disaster. In fact, the moderators claimed they were “shell-shocked” by the behavior of the GOP candidates. They also seem to be beyond mad at the RNC for suspending their relationship with the network for future debates.

The moderators failed everyone because they were supposed to be tough and keep things on track. They did not and were subsequently eaten alive. They tried to create tension amongst the candidates by trying to pit one against the other. The candidates saw through that and did not play along.

Overall, the debate said a lot about CNBC and media. By failing to simply be fair and straightforward in their exchanges, I saw that the debate become a blame game, a continuous circle of acknowledgement and denial amongst everyone.

Last week’s exchange seemed to confirm stereotypes that the GOP is unfairly treated by the left. If the media is not aligned with helping either Clinton or Sanders appear more appealing to the public, then why did the moderators engage in this giant unwanted game of political mudsling?

The fact that all of this comes from one debate is amazing to me.

If ratings and being a hot topic of conversation were the goals, then they were solidified – at the expensive of CNBC’s integrity.