CNBC's GOP Debate Disaster

October 29, 2015 Topic: U.S. Politics Region: United States Tags: GOP DebateCNBC DebateGOP2016 GOP Debate

CNBC's GOP Debate Disaster

"They were simply bad journalists, failing to distinguish between lines of questioning that could lead to serious policy answers and those that could only elicit evasion or bickering."


However slight Carson’s knowledge of economic policy may be, and however sleepy he appears on stage, the social conservatives who support him are kept on his side by words like these. Huckabee’s hopes hinge entirely on Carson making a misstep and falling from evangelicals’ favor.

Rand Paul not only received the least time, he seemingly had little to say: Ted Cruz stole his thunder when moderators called on the Texas senator to give the first response to a question about the Federal Reserve. Cruz boasted that he had co-sponsored Senator Paul’s legislation to audit the Fed, excoriated “this incredible experiment of quantitative easing, QE1, QE2, QE3, QE-infinity,” and called for “sound money and monetary stability, ideally tied to gold.”


If Jeb Bush was cut by Trump’s quip that he was  “low-energy guy,” by comparison with Cruz, Paul seemed almost as wan. The Kentucky senator did give a good answer when asked whether Ronald Reagan had been right to oppose the creation of Medicare in the 1960s. Paul alluded to the demographic realities behind the welfare state: “it’s your grandparents’ fault for having too many damn kids. After the war we had all of these kids, Baby Boomers. Now we’re having smaller families. We used to have 16 workers for one retiree, now you have three workers for one retiree.” This was a droll way of putting it—a rare moment of irony and wit in this debate—but irony and wit are not the currency of the voters who’ve lifted Ben Carson toward the top of the polls.

Chris Christie, by contrast with Paul, seemed rather ebullient about his own moribund campaign. His moment of the night came when he reacted with incredulity to a question Jeb Bush had been asked about regulating fantasy football—“wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?” Christie’s own preferred theme was law and order: he talked of jailing General Motors executives responsible for deadly ignition-switch defects and lauded police officers and the FBI. Christie is evidently counting on a “Ferguson effect” to breathe life into his bid.

If debates were all that counted, Bush and Paul would be gone after this one. But the former Florida governor still has Super PAC money and better New Hampshire poll numbers than his rival Rubio, and Rand Paul has a clearer rationale for his campaign than most of the others: both the realists and the libertarians in the Republican coalition need a champion. They may need champions in the media even more than in GOP itself—if only so someone will ask the right questions

Daniel McCarthy is editor of The American Conservative.

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons.