Is Reince the New Boehner?

Chairman of the Republican National Convention Reince Priebus addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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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.

Reince Priebus who was, let’s remember, the one who put on the debate with CNBC, is now trying to get out of ahead of the revolt by saying how “pissed off” he is about the “crap sandwich” of a debate. GOP id channeller Mark Levin says Priebus should be deposed over the scandal of the debate. And Ben Carson is apparently leading a junto which will meet with RNC leaders to discuss candidates’ grievances with the debate process. It’s not too much to say that the dysfunction of the House and outrage/faux betrayal feedback loop that left John Boehner as roadkill on the boulevard to Randian nirvana is now ready to lead to Priebus’s demise as well.

But let’s shift back to the essential complaint. Republicans say that the debate was a disaster because the moderators were too hard on the candidates, focused too little on substance and made the debate a showcase of media bias. But let’s get real. The debate was co-hosted by the RNC, literally the Republican Party, and CNBC, which is essentially a niche news network for the investor class. As I noted, I thought John Harwood was the only standout from the moderators. Fair but sharp questions focused on candidate’s policy proposals. The shortcomings of the other moderators were either that they asked excessively Tea Partyish questions or that they let the candidates get off too easy (like with Trump on Zuckerberg.)

The upshot is this. If your own party partners with a right-leaning news network and the debate is still a media bias catastrophe, well, something is seriously wrong. I would suggest that it’s a party in an outrage infinite feedback loop which cannot get its footing without finding some outside force which is betraying it or holding it down or otherwise doing it wrong. But I’ll leave that judgment to others. It really is something like electing John Boehner Speaker of the House, an establishment figure but very much a down the line conservative, and deciding he’s simply an Obamabot lapdog whose betrayals must end. The debate wasn’t great. But in terms of unfairness to the candidates or media bias, the complaints about it are simply laughable.

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