CNBC failed American voters. Here’s how future debate moderators can do better.

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

CNBC failed American voters. Here’s how future debate moderators can do better..

Fourteen million viewers tuned in for the Republican Party presidential campaign debate on CNBC on Wednesday night, a record for the network, but criticism of the moderators left CNBC with a mixed victory. The good news is, Juan is finally going to have time for all those “really cool things” he said last weekend he could be doing if he wasn’t in the fight. Ratings for the third debate among Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to run for the White House in the November 2016 election trailed the other two aired on Fox and CNN, which drew 24 million and 22.9 million viewers.

With the economy as the theme Wednesday night, the 10 candidates were in general agreement that growth is sluggish, rising just 1.5 percent during the third quarter, due to government splurging, paid for with high taxes and runaway debt. The debate demonstrated a strong contrast with the Democratic presidential candidates, who in their first debate two weeks ago called for multiple new government programs paid for by higher taxes. Ryan is now second only to Vice President Joe Biden in the line of succession to the presidency, and Rubio and Cruz remain very much in the hunt for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

All the tax plans released by the Republican candidates to date would starkly reduce the amount of money Americans and U.S. businesses pay in taxes, with experts — including those who support them — predicting they would balloon the nation’s debt by trillions of dollars over the next decade. Senator from Texas, said the event showed “why the American people don’t trust the media.” CNBC, in a statement announcing the ratings, defended itself against the criticism, describing the evening as “a hard-hitting debate that changed the course of the Republican primary.” CNBC sold all of its advertising slots during the prime time debate, charging advertisers $250,000 or more for a 30-second ad, according to a person familiar with the situation.

All three are in their mid-40s — a generational handoff that is a striking contrast to Democrats, with their veteran band of congressional leaders and 2016 front-runners. Rand Paul of Kentucky set the tone, “I want government so small I can barely see it.” All the candidates favored tax cuts, while differing in their approaches. Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have all proposed cuts and consolidation of existing tax rates, maintaining a tax code that collects a larger share of income from taxpayers as it rises.

Party chairman Reince Priebus instituted a series of rules after the 2012 election in an attempt to have moderators who would be interested in discussing conservative issues. And as we’ve seen on Capitol Hill this week, the chaotic aspects of a transition can sometimes resolve in ways that produce the best outcome for Republicans and the riskiest for Democrats. An hour before lunch — a free lunch, by the way — his campaign tweeted out a reminder: They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but don’t tell that to Juan.

On Thursday, Priebus sent an email titled “CNBC should be ashamed of themselves.” He asked supporters to sign an online petition to “put the mainstream media on notice” about bias. The Republican field has been dominated by real estate magnate Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who have never held a political office or even run for one.

Rand Paul in combining a flat tax, or a single rate paid by all regardless of their income, along with a tax on business activity that would take the place of the current payroll and corporate income tax. The audience booed loudly at them several times – sometimes at the encouragement of the candidates. “There were a lot of conservatives urging them to go hard after the media and that’s what they did,” Harwood said. With the I-95 bridge to Kittery in the background, picturesque tugboats tooted their horns, trying to keep Jeb’s sparse crowd inside awake as they listened to another of Jeb’s droning vintage whines: He had just been endorsed by Judd Gregg, who last faced the voters in 2004, two years after Juan’s last election, in 2002.

John Kasich, is hitting hard on his party’s infatuation with Trump and Carson and his concern, as he put it, that “we are on the verge, perhaps, of picking someone who cannot do this job.” His points — about fantasy budgets, scaring seniors, splitting up immigrant families — will resonate with many. Many tax experts like the value-added tax since it is simpler and less likely to include loopholes for special interest groups. “Nearly every economist would tell you it’s a more efficient tax,” said Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the nonpartisan Brookings Institute and Urban Institute. The moderators had little tolerance for candidates trying to interject and respond to another candidate’s answer, frequently cutting off anyone who tried to chime in.

Cruz’s plan, released shortly before Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate, calls for a flat income tax rate of 10 percent, as well as a tax of 16 percent on all aspects of business — from sales to expenses to salaries paid. “You pay 10 percent of the flat tax going up,” Cruz said during Wednesday night’s debate. “The billionaire and the working man. Merrill Brown, director of the School of Communications and Media at Montclair State University, said there was reason for CNBC to celebrate because they delivered to advertisers “but there is no bigger win here” and “no one is going to be converted to being a regular watcher.”

Trump replied that “the economy would take off like a rocket” and generate enough revenue to close any gap, an attitude taken by the other candidates for their plans. Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler argued the tax is not really European-style since it replaces existing taxes rather than adding onto them. “The result should be the opposite of Euro-stagnation: A re-ignition of the U.S. economy.” Value-added taxes are also criticized by some for placing a heavier burden on low-income taypayers. A CBS staffer tweeted out: “250+ at Jeb event … Bigger crowd than when Kasich was here.” Now that’s pretty funny, as Juan would say, when a Bush is reduced to bragging about outdrawing a clown like Kasich. To encourage savings, Cruz would also allow taypayers to save $25,000 a year in an IRA-style account in which no tax would be paid until the money is spent.

My colleague James Poulos is right to argue that simply charging the media with liberal bias is an all-too-convenient way to paper over the GOP’s structural disarray. And so when GOP politicians blast the media, journalists typically wave it off as another populist line that gets those strange conservative base voters riled up, with the implication that the attack must be based on a fiction, because journalists deal only in facts. Or maybe he recognizes that both he and his party would be blamed for dysfunction and the GOP nominee — possibly him — punished at the polls next year. The only conservative (or, sort-of conservative) they could find to ask questions was Rick Santelli, and to ask crankish questions about gold and the Fed, even though CNBC is actually one of the few networks out there with a bona fide smart conservative, Larry Kudlow, as an anchor.

Cruz displayed a newfound humor and self-awareness during the CNBC debate. “I’m too agreeable, easygoing,” the notorious firebrand joked when asked his greatest weakness and added more seriously, “If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy.” When moderator Carl Quintanilla came back to him after a contentious exchange and said, “We’re clearly not having that beer you mentioned,” Cruz responded, “Then I’ll buy you a tequila or even some famous Colorado brownies.” Fun guy. But here’s the worst part, from the Democratic standpoint: In a New Yorker article this month, Cruz sounded absolutely reasonable on foreign policy.

He placed himself somewhere between Paul’s caution about military intervention and the hawkish end of the GOP spectrum, where Rubio resides with Sens. It was also a dumb choice by CNBC; the Florida senator’s tax plan is actually the best in the field, and he’s smart enough to understand and go toe to toe on the specifics. (For the record, Harwood is still claiming he didn’t get it wrong, even though the head of the think tank whose report he cited said he was.) Being a journalist is a noble profession. Cruz said his reference point was Ronald Reagan and his peace-through-strength approach. “Speaking for freedom is not the same thing as using U.S. military force,” he told the magazine. That’s particularly true for Bush, whose candidacy many commentators declared all but dead after a decidedly subpar performance in the Colorado debate. Because I still don’t believe they will go the distance, even in a Republican contest that so far doesn’t look much like anything we’ve seen before.

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