GOP debate: Reality TV run amock - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

GOP debate: Reality TV run amock

Don’t everyone lie at once now.

It’s like a political version of Survivor: 10 candidates in the running, with a few you simply want to stick around for a while for their entertainment value … but hell if you want them to win! Well, maybe that’s just me.

Let’s attempt to take a more serious look at the third GOP Debates.

Ted Cruz1Saying the debate was a bit chaotic would be putting it mildly. While Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump all stepped out onto the stage like ducks in a row, clearly not all of them had their ducks in a row. Furthermore, the fairly obvious attempts of the moderators to turn the debate into popcorn-worthy entertainment rather than an actual opportunity to explore the candidates’ views were finally attacked by a few debaters themselves — namely Rubio and Cruz.

Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio

To be fair, many of the questions aimed at specific candidates seemed to also be about those sharing the stage with them, whereas Democratic debate moderators kept their questions closely aligned with the candidate they were addressing. But I think Rubio’s assertion that there is a “left wing” media bias is preposterous. If there was, they wouldn’t have been declaring Clinton the winner over Sanders despite public polling to the opposite effect. They wouldn’t be focusing on him—Rubio — either, as he’s a bit of a centrist compared to quasi-outsiders like Rand Paul.

What you believe about politics is pretty damn near irrelevant during these debates. Political beliefs only become important when you step into the voting booths or mail your ballot. What matters during debates? Your beliefs about the candidates, of course. And those views are arguably shaped by the moderation of the debates, accessibility of the media videos and transcripts following (not everyone is on a schedule where they can view the debates live), and the quality of each candidate’s answers.

The debate moderators: (L-R) Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood

The debate moderators: (L-R) Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood

Unfortunately, while some of the GOP candidates have a point about the quality of debate moderation and the methods of questioning — as well as the treatment of certain candidates before the event — that’s not exactly a free pass, for the following reasons:

  • (1) Bad testing occurs everywhere. If they don’t like the questions and think their odds aren’t as good because of an unfair system, perhaps that’s a good insight into what it’s like to be an average American. Maybe they’ll start to understand the frustration of teachers and students struggling with piss poor excuses for education via standardized testing. Maybe they’ll understand for a moment what it’s like to realize that sometimes you can’t “win” without either lying or dodging the rules.
  • (2) Just because the moderators ask questions that allow the candidates an opportunity to attack another colleague doesn’t mean they have to take the bait. They also don’t have to get defensive. They don’t have to raise their voice (*cough, cough* Kasich! *cough*) either.
  • Governor John Kasich (OH)

    Governor John Kasich (OH)

    (3) The blatant lies in responses to many of the questions prove that the quality of moderators is not the primary catalyst for the disgracefully disorganized interactions on stage. Ideally, your character and your record should, by this time, be your greatest defense. Debates are mostly a way for citizens to grow familiar with those asking for their support. It’s largely a gimmick, and mostly a show. If you waste the opportunity to answer the decent questions with truthful answers, then that’s your fault.

With fact-checking becoming a popular post-debate habit, you would think that candidates would settle for ambiguous statements or occasionally stretching the truth, rather than flipping the truth onto its side, putting it in a chokehold, and driving a spear through it.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Yes, in the age of easy fact-checking, please tell me why Trump can flat out deny his own well publicized criticism of Rubio and Zuckerberg, as well as the details of his campaign financing (only 50 percent self-funded) without being called out on it? Why can Ben Carson act like he’s never even heard of the controversial company, Mannatech, when the company’s video ads featured him as a supporter, and still be seen as an “honest, likeable” candidate? How can Cruz lie about women’s wages, saying they’ve decreased when we’ve actually seen them go up during Obama’s presidency, and not be seen as someone trying to falsify information and use a women’s issue to garner support?

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina

But no matter which debate you’re watching, dishonesty is to politicians like dishonesty is to politicians. (Did you need an actual analogy?)

Like the Democratic debates, despite there being a few of the candidates who chose to be less than frank, there were occasional moments where they stepped up to the plate and played hardball, taking on the difficult questions with enthusiasm.

A lot of enthusiasm.

Gov. Chris Christie (NJ)

Gov. Chris Christie (NJ)

Kasich yelled a lot, Paul provided no surprises but stood up aptly against Cruz, Carson rambled a bit and mostly had his points either proven, disproven or stolen by other people, Fiorina complained about Democrats and big government before defending her CEO tenure and suggesting that we trim the tax code by approximately 70,000 pages, Trump was shockingly subdued, even when bragging about his long history of business success and skirting the issues of bankruptcy in the hotel industry (although he did admit to packing a gun at times), and Rubio alternated nicely between a political machine and a human being with personality.

Gov. Jeb Bush (FL) Rumor is will have more time to work on his fantasy football team once he drops out of the race, which could be sooner, rather than later.

Gov. Jeb Bush (FL) Rumor is will have more time to work on his fantasy football team once he drops out of the race, which could be sooner, rather than later.

But all the enthusiasm, fantasy football jokes (really, Bush?), moderation bashing and political prowess in the world can’t save what was a mockery of a debate. If the gusto and bravado of this last debate could somehow be refined to a point where it was more than just a shit show and provided a higher level of awareness regarding the candidates’ potential actions if elected, I’d vote for that.

 (All photos via YouTube)


About the author

Megan Wallin

Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue. Contact the author.
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