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October 29, 2015

‘What Is Your Biggest Weakness?’

The first of many awful questions lobbed by CNBC debate moderators.

“What is your biggest weakness and what are you doing to address it?” That was the first of many hostile, biased, personally insulting and just plain stupid questions the 11 Republican candidates fielded from the moderators in the debate last night. Has there ever been a debate in which the moderators behaved so poorly?

Indeed, CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla’s opening question could be turned around on the moderators. He, Becky Quick and John Harwood didn’t even attempt to conceal their contempt for the candidates on stage, and they ended up making themselves the story. Perhaps that’s to be expected when, for the last 30 years, conservatives have increasing cried “foul” on Leftmedia bias, and the general public no longer trusts the press. The moderators seemed to have concluded they needn’t bother feigning objectivity, opting to move on with their Democrat activism. No wonder the audience booed them.

On the flip side, the moderators’ petulant bias prompted some great moments from the candidates who rejected the premise of the questions and turned their fire toward Democrats. Three candidates did particularly well in this department: Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Right off the bat, Christie parried the “weakness” question by pointing to Democrats. “I don’t see a lot of weakness on this stage, quite frankly,” he said. “Where I see the weakness is in those three people that are left on the Democratic stage. You know, I see a socialist, an isolationist and a pessimist. And for the sake of me, I can’t figure out which one is which.”

Christie consistently rejected the Big Government basis for questions, and set about to contrast with Democrats rather than his fellow Republicans. His answer to the inane fantasy football question was outstanding: “Carl, are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football? We have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al-Qaida attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football?”

As good as Christie was, Cruz and Rubio were even better. Quintanilla asked Cruz, “Does your opposition to [the debt-limit deal in Congress] show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?”

Cruz responded with a spectacular takedown of his leftist interrogators:

> “You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’ ‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’ How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?

> "The contrast [is stark] with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, ‘Which of you is more handsome and why?’

> "Let me be clear. The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. And nobody watching at home believed that any of the moderators had any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions that are being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other. It should be what are your substantive positions.”

The most memorable assault on general Leftmedia propaganda came from Rubio. “I know the Democrats have the ultimate super PAC. It’s called the mainstream media,” he said. That line could outlive this campaign.

“Last week,” Rubio elaborated, “Hillary Clinton went before a committee. She admitted she had sent emails to her family saying, ‘Hey, this attack at Benghazi was caused by al-Qaida-like elements.’ She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It was the week she got exposed as a liar. But she has her super PAC helping her out — the American mainstream media.”

Rubio had plenty of reason to be frustrated, though he handled it with poise. In one exchange, Harwood knowingly misrepresented Rubio’s tax plan — after Harwood had days earlier corrected himself on the same point. It was reminiscent of Candy Crowley’s false attack on Mitt Romney in 2012.

In our estimation, the losers of the debate (besides CNBC) were the candidates who accepted the moderators’ lead and attacked other Republicans (Jeb Bush), were just plain ticked off at having to suffer the presence of other Republicans (John Kasich), or could do nothing more than hit “repeat” on vacuous bluster (Donald Trump). That said, Trump did nothing to hurt himself with his supporters, so perhaps he shouldn’t be in the loser category.

On a final note, the debate focused on the economy, and that will no doubt be a key issue in the election. Immigration is an even hotter button. But the catastrophic Obama/Clinton foreign policy failures in the Middle East, Asia and Russia pose overarching and very real national security threats that are getting virtually no airtime. Those issues will come to the forefront in this election.

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