Political ‘debates’ become show biz

CNBC panel

I might have a solution to returning some decorum and dignity to these presidential joint appearances.

I’ve said it before: Get rid of the audience.

CNBC’s moderators became the target of many of the Republicans running for president at tonight’s so-called debate.

First of all, I concur that the moderators were terrible. They lost control of the event. They let the proverbial tail wag the dog — to borrow a political phrase.

Indeed, the candidates fed off the crowd that gathered at the University of Colorado in Boulder. They cheered ’em on. They provoked the zingers. They roared every time a candidate took a shot at the “mainstream media.”

Tonight’s GOP joint appearance lacked almost any semblance of dignity. It became a circus and the moderators — Becky Quick, John Harwood and Carl Quintanilla — became the ringmasters.

It’s not as though the questioners didn’t ask good questions. They sought to probe the candidates’ backgrounds, prod them to explain previous statements and provoke them to make memorable statements.

It seemed, though, that CNBC debate troika set themselves up to become as much a part of the story as the candidates.

Why is that? The moderators were fueled as much by the audience as the candidates.

I have an intense dislike for what these events have  become.

Both parties have become enamored of the entertainment value that the audiences bring to these confrontations.

I’m old enough to remember the very first televised presidential debates, involving Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy. They had three of them. Each one got a little more vigorous than the preceding encounter.

Audiences? None. Just the two men … and Americans learned a lot from them both, without the distraction created by the cheers and catcalls.


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