Jesus Christ, the Republicans are a bunch of cowards.
After supposedly being mistreated by the moderators of the last GOP presidential debate on that communist network CBNC — one of whom was the guy credited with actually starting the tea party — the Republican candidates will be getting a break from any future NBC torment. That’s because RNC chairman and impish Middle Earth creature Reince Priebus has now written to NBC to inform the network that the GOP will be severing all ties with it, which means the cancellation of the next Republican presidential debate. That debate was supposed to happen in February and be a joint venture between NBC/Telemundo and the National Review. Priebus says the National Review will still be involved, natch, but that NBC and its other properties won’t get another crack at the Republican contenders — whoever’s left at that point.
The reason for Priebus’s outrage: He says the CNBC people were mean to the Republicans on Wednesday. “While debates are meant to include tough questions and contrast candidates’ visions and policies for the future of America, CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates,” Priebus writes. He goes on to accuse the network of operating in “bad faith” and claims that he and the GOP candidates need to “ensure there is not a repeat performance,” which is why he’s exiling NBC from the February debate, with the alternative apparently being that the candidates and National Review editor Rich Lowry will just sit around a card table shooting the shit while a high school AV crew puts the whole thing up on YouTube.
There were some issues with the CNBC moderators the other night, but they mostly involved an inability control the debate and to keep things moving along. As for supposedly being unfair to the candidates and acting in bad faith in general — that’s just sour grapes. It’s whiny baby nonsense from a party that believes that any serious probing of its candidates’ ludicrous claims and proposals amount to “gotcha” questions.
You’ll remember that the inexplicably 44-year-old Ted Cruz had the applause line of the night when he attacked CNBC moderators for asking questions that he felt weren’t substantive, even though he specifically ignored a substantive question to rattle off his indignant soliloquy. Vox‘s Ezra Klein called Cruz out for this and made possibly the most salient point in response to the cries of foul from Republicans. “Cruz’s attack on the moderators was smart politics — but it was almost precisely backwards,” he writes. “The questions in the CNBC debate, though relentlessly tough, were easily the most substantive of the debates so far. And the problem for Republicans is that substantive questions about their policy proposals end up sounding like hostile attacks — but that’s because the policy proposals are ridiculous, not because the questions are actually unfair.”
Three of the GOP candidates for president are political neophytes and therefore deserve to be vetted more closely than those who’ve left a political paper trail that can be examined. They should expect this and their party should expect this. Add to that the fact that all three are spouting mostly lies and nonsense, with one guy, Donald Trump, not talking about policy at all other than to toss out a bunch of superlative adjectives ad nauseam and you’ve got a situation where tough questions need to be asked for the good of the country. The rest of the candidates — the ostensibly serious people — are unfortunately also so busy pandering to the GOP base that their shibboleths deserve to be called out because they don’t equal legitimate, working policy. They have to be held accountable for what they propose — and for the most part that’s what the CNBC moderators tried to do the other night.
The thing to keep in mind here, though, is that Reince Priebus’s indignation is crap. The Republicans have reveled in playing the “liberal media bias” card for decades now and they’ll continue to milk that canard for all it’s worth for as long as they can. So far they’ve complained about every one of the debates, even the one staged by Fox News Channel. The fact is that conservatives need that liberal media boogeyman to be able to hang their persecution complexes on, because they need to be the victims of a conspiracy to silence their way of thinking. They need a scapegoat to call out whenever their backward policies make no sense and their candidates are talking about deporting 11-million people — so they kill the messenger. It’s pure, Houdini-like misdirection and the Republicans have to have it at their disposal.
Another issue — maybe the biggest one — is that despite their cries of a liberal media cabal that’s out to marginalize them, the truth is that they have their own hugely powerful media machine that injects their worldview into the cultural bloodstream unfiltered and unchallenged. The problem is that it’s created a hermetically sealed bubble where they can now live separate from the reality the rest of us call home. Case in point: Ted Cruz has suggested that a panel of conservative infotainment stars moderates the next Republican debate. “How about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh?” Cruz suggested today. “Now, that would be a debate.” No, that wouldn’t be anything approaching a debate. It would merely be a forum in which nobody’s comment or proposal, regardless of how detached from planet earth, would be challenged, only given an enthusiastic “harumph!”
But that’s what Republicans want now. That’s what they need. They need to be only among their own kind. Anything else is supposedly suspect or outright corrupt, a “gotcha.” No one else can be trusted. I say go for it. By all means, continue to self-marginalize. The rest of us will stay right here in the real world, where demanding that someone running for president be held accountable for crazy thinking isn’t “bad faith,” it’s just being responsible. And where a political party that demands only softball questions and loud affirmations isn’t a political party at all — it’s a chaotic, unserious clown show.
Reince Priebus’s angry letter to NBC claims that CNBC “embarrassed” the Republican candidates the other night. The truth is CNBC didn’t have to.