How not to troll your presidential rival, Jeb Bush edition

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

14 million viewers for Republican presidential debate a record for CNBC.

The repeated bursts of anger and anarchy were prompted, in part, by questions from the moderators that veered, at times, beyond sharp into contentiousness. Attacking the questioner is a long-standing get-out-of-jail device in debates — particularly on the Republican side, where resentment of the liberal media is a perennial grievance.The Republican presidential primary debate continued its run as the season’s hottest TV ratings hit, delivering an average of 14 million viewers for CNBC on Wednesday.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz drew the most attention on social media during Wednesday’s Republican debate, mostly for accusing the CNBC moderators of a liberal bias.I don’t have any disagreements with the conventional wisdom that last night’s Republican debate was good for Marco Rubio and very, very bad for poor Jeb Bush.The struggling NBC-owned cable channel thought it was sending in its heavy hitters to moderate the debate, but the network’s well-coiffed talking heads played like correspondents on some affiliate in Montana — and each was more ham-handed and clueless than the next. By the end of the first hour, the audience seemed to be siding with the candidates, booing when CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla seemed to play gotcha with Ben Carson about his past work for a questionable company.

The audience was the lowest of the three GOP candidate showdowns so far, but still delivered the highest number ever in the 26-year history of NBCUniversal’s niche cable channel covering business and finance news cable channel, which typically averages about 130,000 viewers in prime time. Thomson Reuters’ social media sentiment analysis showed the volume of tweets mentioning the U.S. senator from Texas was the highest among the candidates at 14,090, while celebrity real estate developer Donald Trump, a party front-runner, followed with 12,045. But since it was allegedly an economic policy debate, it seems worth talking a little bit about what we saw from the candidates on policy substance, and what that says about where the G.O.P. stands entering the presidential year. Bloviating candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were allowed to get away with blatant lies and obnoxiously walked all over moderators Carl Quintanilla, John Harwood, Becky Quick. You would expect better from Harwood, a New York Times writer and CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent; Quintanilla, the anchor of the weekend editions of “Nightly News” and “Today”; and Quick, an anchor on “Squawk Box” who was so woefully unprepared and spineless during the heat of the debate that at one point she ended up apologizing to Trump — after he lied to her face.

The crowd rewarded them with enthusiastic applause. “It’s not a very nicely asked question the way you say that,” Donald Trump told John Harwood when the moderator asked Trump if he was running “a comic book version of a presidential campaign?” Florida Sen. As with Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012, the signature policy plan for every Republican candidate is a tax cut. “… We need somebody who can balance budgets, cut taxes,” said Ohio Gov.

The most humiliating moment in an embarrassing night came when Trump claimed he hadn’t been critical of Mark Zuckerberg for the Facebook founder’s push for more immigrant workers. On Wednesday night, the tension was palpable throughout the encounter and across the stage, a theme that may have dashed CNBC’s plans to use the night to showcase a broad array of its own anchors and introduce itself to millions of new viewers. Marco Rubio, when confronted with questions about some of his personal financial struggles, accused Becky Quick, another member of the CNBC panel, of reciting a litany of his opponents’ false attacks.

At another point, he took an additional shot, condemning the media for going soft on Hillary Rodham Clinton after last week’s Benghazi committee hearing. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Not only were the questions snarky and divisive and nonsubstantive, they were just biased.

We’re bringing corporate taxes down, bringing money back in, corporate inversions,” said Donald Trump. “Growth is the answer,” declared Cruz. “And as Reagan demonstrated, if we cut taxes, we can bring back growth.” And the cuts are meant for high earners. Under Rubio’s plan, for example, the government wouldn’t tax income from dividends and capital gains, largely benefiting the wealthiest Americans.

The pattern was established very early by Donald Trump, spurred by a question about his tax plan from CNBC’s John Harwood that suggested the businessman was running a “comic-book” campaign. And while Rubio includes measures that benefit the bottom 10 percent of income earners, the overall effect of his supply-side cuts is to tilt the tax code toward the top at an even greater angle than exists now. And it became somewhat of a free-for-all that everybody had to jump in when you could jump in.” The moderating team’s occasional stumbles offered the candidates an opening to turn the partisan crowd against them and avoid delivering straight answers to what in most cases were tough queries.

Other candidates – Former Florida Governor Jed Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee – scored between negative 4 and negative 5. Ted Cruz: “Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown, and calm financial markets of the fear that a Washington crisis is on the way. Soon after, Texas senator Ted Cruz picked up the cudgel, declaring, in response to a question from Quintanilla about raising the debt ceiling, “Let me say something at the outset. Does your opposition to it show you’re not the kind of problem-solver that American voters want?” The question was one of dozens lobbed at the candidates that seemed designed to generate sparks and ratings rather than induce substantiative discussion of the issues.

Competing cable news channels, most notably Fox News, gave Republican talking heads and commentators free reign to dump on CNBC’s moderator panel during its post-debate programming. Carson called for a flat tax, Cruz praised “sound money” and the gold standard, and Carly Fiorina attacked the federal minimum wage as unconstitutional. At the same moment, even the Twitter feed that CNBC scrolled across the bottom of the screen was poking fun at the moderators, as comic Patton Oswalt tweeted: “I’ve taken a drink everytime the CNBC anchors said ‘ascending’ and now I’m Judy Garland.” So, yes, the Mets lost on Wednesday — but they still played like they belonged in the major leagues.

The questions shouldn’t be getting people to tear into each other.” Cruz, his voice rising in indignation, cited Harwood’s “comic-book” question to Trump and one from CNBC’s Becky Quick to Carson that declared that his flat-tax plan wouldn’t bring in nearly as much revenue as he claimed. But many of the second-day analysis by political writers showed that the claims the moderators raised in their questions that the candidates disputed were factually accurate. After Cruz waxed on about a double standard between Democratic and Republican debates, Quintanilla seemed visibly irritated, and he and Harwood each refused to give Cruz any extra time to answer the original question.

NBC News executives said privately that the backlash against CNBC was not expected to effect their organization’s relationship with the Republican Party. In short, despite years of decrying Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, Republicans have stuck with the underlying idea: that the government does too much to redistribute wealth to low- and middle-income Americans, and too little to assist the richest citizens.

But the spuriousness of the decision left them open to further expressions of outrage by other candidates whenever the moderators tried to cut them off. The post-Romney Republicans really have changed some of their rhetoric: There’s been relatively little “makers vs. takers” material on the debate stage thus far, somewhat fewer “you built that” plaints for the long-suffering entrepreneurs, and more expressions of solidarity with people going paycheck to paycheck. But overall it really is quite striking how little most of the candidates are offering on economic policy that strays from the “Saint Reagan as interpreted by the hierarchy of the Wall Street Journal” party baseline … and how much tax policy, especially, remains a race to the supply-side extreme, with Ted Cruz’s ten percent flat tax just the latest iteration in this pattern. For all the talk (from me, among others) about his candidacy as a proving ground for libertarian populism, Rand Paul has mostly just sounded like a very conventional government-cutter; for all his past forays into “opportunity conservatism,” Cruz is now as deep into supply-side cloud-cuckoo land on taxes as Ben Carson — about whose tax policy “ideas” the less said the better. (Though Peter Suderman says the necessary things.) The result, as Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out in a National Review essay explaining why Hillary Clinton’s odds are still quite good, is that Republicans as a party “have very little in the way of popular policy proposals to counter the appeal of liberalism, and they often “do not seem to be even trying to erode the Democratic advantage on middle-class economics.” The only exceptions, in different ways, are Trump and Rubio: Trump with his populist-nationalist case on trade and immigration and protecting entitlements, and Rubio on several different fronts at once, including education reform, a wage-subsidizing safety-net reform, a Social Security reform that isn’t just the “benefit cuts and private accounts” Republican usual, and his heterodox embrace of the child tax credit and a 35 (as opposed to 28 … or 17 … or 10!) percent top income tax rate. And in about two minutes, I renegotiated it to two hours, so we could get the hell out of here.” The debate had barely wrapped up when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus marched into the spin room and blasted the network.

In a statement sent out soon after, Priebus said he was disappointed in the network moderators. “Our diverse field of talented and exceptionally qualified candidates did their best to share ideas for how to reinvigorate the economy and put Americans back to work despite deeply unfortunate questioning from CNBC,” Priebus said. “One of the great things about our party is that we are able to have a dynamic exchange about which solutions will secure a prosperous future, and I will fight to ensure future debates allow for a more robust exchange. CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled.” “One thing that unified all the Republicans tonight was the disdain for the moderators,” Kentucky Sen.

Rand Paul concluded after the debate. “I felt like we were all together in thinking that maybe the moderators got kind of carried away.” Jeb Bush’s campaign manager Danny Diaz was spotted in the debate hall having a heated conversation with CNBC producers while the contest was still going on. But the revisions have been modest, and if he makes it to the general election he can expect to be hit again and again and again for offering deficit-financed tax cuts for the very rich; on that front, at least, he too is still a little too imprisoned by his party’s habits of mind for his own political good.

Diaz later told POLITICO that he “expressed my displeasure about the way the debate was managed and the amount of time [we got].” Staffers from several competing networks relished in watching the meltdown, sending emails and texts saying the network was being “manhandled” and that the moderators had lost control.

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