Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Despite all our disagreements and polarization in this country, all seem to agree that the CNBC debate was a disaster. What's notable though is that no one seems to agree why it was so bad. Indeed, the key attacks and critiques are actually mutually contradictory. Lots of people, myself included, were surprised that most of the debate moderators, besides John Harwood, seemed so poorly prepared. Betsy Quick had Trump dead to rights on her Mark Zuckerberg question but was so poorly prepared that when Trump flatly denied her accurate claim she could only respond, "So where did I read this and come up with this ..." On top of that, CNBC gave a lot of time to pet network ranters like Santelli and Cramer. In other words, one critique was that the questions tended toward the obscure and they let the candidates off too easy. But Republicans are now in open revolt because of media bias.

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Remember that story about how a private detective working for Sen. David Vitter got caught recording a high-powered GOP sheriff and his political pals talking shop at a local diner a few days ago? The Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Newell Normand, caught seemingly hapless gumshoe Robert J. Frenzel red-handed. Frenzel jammed out of the diner. Normand and his pals chased after him. Then Normand called in a few of his Sheriff's Deputies who finally apprehended Frenzel cowering under an AC unit. Well, guess what? The story just got a lot weirder. Yes, really!

Turns out among those shooting the shit with Normand in the diner was John Cummings, a major donor to Democrat John Bel Edwards, Vitter's opponent in the Governor's race. Cummings, for some reason was identified as the "man with the white beard", was allegedly the guy Frenzel was there to record. But aha! ... also there was another private investigator named Danny DeNoux. And he just happens to be the guy who discovered a woman named Wendy Ellis, a prostitute who claims Vitter was her client. She has resurfaced in recent weeks with new claims that she became pregnant with Vitter's child and refused his demands that she abort the pregnancy. These allegations have turned up in the blog of a local named Jason Berry. DeNoux says it was a wealthy businessman who hired him to dig up dirt on Vitter. But he won't say who it is other than it's not Cummings - the "man with the white beard."

In other words, the story is turning out to be rather awesome and a genuine mystery that the local press seems likely to spend the next several weeks trying to unravel. Catherine Thompson has the latest developments here.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus, who partnered with CNBC to put on this debate, is crapping on CNBC big time for putting on a terrible debate. I thought it was a terrible debate. But I was a little unclear why Priebus thought it was so terrible from a GOP perspective. That became a little more clear after I saw the breakdown of how much each candidate got to talk. Carly Fiorina, who is barely in the running, got more time than anyone else. Jeb Bush got the least by a significant margin - less than Rand Paul, Huckabee, Christie, people who aren't even really in the race. Priebus is clearly getting hell for that.

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In this post-debate interview, CNN's Dana Bash tells Bush he seems frustrated. (Never a good question to get ...) Frustrated? I'm not frustrated. Not frustrated. Then he goes on to list the reasons he's frustrated.

As I said in my previous post, this was a pretty poorly run debate. But that's media criticism. The real question is how it will affect the race. Jeb Bush needed to get back into this campaign. And he absolutely didn't do that. I thought his attack on Marco Rubio was pretty strong. But after that, I'm not sure what happened to him. Maybe he took a nap. I'm not sure. It's really hard to see how he can hold on to any level of confidence from establishment Republicans at this point. He just doesn't seem to have it in him. Not that he was a leader of the pack in the first place. But he really needed to change the equation. He didn't.

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As everyone is already discussing, CNBC probably shouldn't be allowed to run a debate again. Aside from the expertly prepared John Harwood, the moderators were bad and poorly - almost embarrassingly - prepared. There's also the CNBC bubble - which makes some of the questions seem odd even for a Republican debate. What about onerous personal helicopter regulation?

But why else? I think part of it is that Carson appears at least to be the nominal frontrunner at the moment. When Trump was the frontrunner, that gave a focus to the debate: attack Trump. Can Trump keep his momentum? Will others take him down? But Carson is such a vague and insubstantial figure, he doesn't give focus to the debate. Like is he or his personality the dominant force in this debate? He seems like a vague and distant presence. And that makes the whole debate lack a certain focus.

10:20 PM: Huckabee: Let's face it, everyone up on this stage sacrificing is awesome.

9:47 PM: On guns, it's a classic Trump answer. Either this was the answer of an aphasic and complete word salad or was it a brilliant answer? Not sure.

10:02 PM: To give you a sense about CNBC, one of the commercials a few minutes ago in New York city was for an app you can use when you're ordering your next helicopter.

9:11 PM: CNBC is so weird. You notice that in this debate some of the most probing questions are about expertise or lack of ability to maximize investment profits? It was a damning line that he had to pay a bunch of money as tax penalties for early withdrawal of retirement savings. Like poor personal investment and tax management is almost disqualifying.

9:16 PM: A question so dumb, Ben Carson manages to hit it out of the park.

9:17 PM: Ben Carson: The American people need to realize we are not each others' enemies. The liberals are the enemies.

9:25 PM: "Where did I hear that?" Worst moderator comeback ever?

9:30 PM: The CNBC debate really is more rooted in the right-wing id and the bubble of extreme wealth than the Fox debate. By a mile.

9:34 PM: John Harwood must be a bit embarrassed to be up there with these other joker moderators.

9:45 PM: Terrible CNBC moderator gets shamed by Twitter over her huge prep-fail and even the recovery is pretty bad.

9:02 PM: CNBC is so weird. That Jim Cramer question was classic. Maybe the GM people should have gone to jail. But like Cramer is still so flipped about people wanting to send Wall Street executives to jail that he's making this "Oh yeah, how about this?" argument about GM. Like he's still upset about this? Only in the CNBC debate.