You've probably already heard President Obama's mockery of the GOP's criticisms of the CNBC debate, but just in case, here it is:
“Have you noticed that every one of these candidates say, ‘Obama’s weak. Putin’s kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he’s going to straighten out,'” the president said. “Then it turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators at the debate. Let me tell you, if you can’t handle those guys, then I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.”
By the time President Obama leaves office, the GOP will have had eight years of such taunting.
That may be one (among many) of the reasons voters are so angry.
Noah Rothman over at Commentary makes some observations on the president's sheer brazenness:
It takes some gall for this president to believe he maintains even a modest amount of credibility on the matter of containing an irredentist Russia or a revisionist China. It is perhaps no coincidence that Obama’s admonition of the GOP candidates and the RNC, all of which have been fiercely critical of the debate moderators, echoed CNBC’s self-defense. The “leader of the free world should be able to answer tough questions,” CNBC spokesman Brian Steel wrote after the RNC cut NBCUniversal out of the debate process following its anchors’ performance. Obama is surely not doing any favors for a network trying to shed the impression that its talent is hopelessly attached to liberal biases.
Yes, a presidential candidate should be able to answer tough questions and we use the debates to measure a candidate's ability to do just that (and, if the president were less in a bubble he might know that the Republican candidates acquitted themselves quite well on that score). But this belligerent stance from CNBC (and, ironically from President Obama who has always been treated with kid gloves by the media) reflects a certain failure to grasp another aspect of the function of the debates: informing the public about the positions of the candidates.
It is to the candidates' credit that they did work in policy when CNBC dispatched a team of rude and snarky moderators to ask them such important questions as whether they were comic book characters. The CNBC debate was, in my book, an overwhelming success for the GOP candidates. Is President Obama so isolated and vain that he doesn't see that that?
Let's hope that, in responding the the evening, the Republican National Committee does not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. David Harsanyi of The Federalists writes that, while the media are terrible, so are the GOP's new debate demands:
For starters, the slew of limitations proposed in the letter reportedly drafted by GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg have absolutely nothing to do with the bias of mainstream media moderators and everything to do with attempts to transform GOP debates into infomercials.
Why can’t a network film candidates looking at their notes? And why can’t they show shots of the audience? What does leaving the mic open have to do with dumb questions? Why does the GOP care if there are candidate-to-candidate questions asked during a candidates’ debate? None of these restrictions help with the fundamental problem of Harwood-style gotcha advocacy posing as journalism. A raucous argument with genuine questions and disagreements is somewhat useful and watchable (the first Fox debate featured all of these things).
It looks like the revolt is already crumbling. But in Politico, you can read some of the Republicans’ concerns. The focus is all wrong. Jeb Bush’s camp, for instance, is actually arguing for veto power over chyrons.
It shouldn't be forgotten that the real challenge for a Republican is in the general election when he will be on stage with a Democrat for whom the media will be rooting. Maybe the best way is for GOP candidates to be prepared for whatever media figure plays the role of Candy Crawley in 2016? There will be someone, and she or he will be more dangerous than CNNC's John Harwood.
CNBC did the GOP a favor and the president's recent ridicule served to show not that the men and one woman on the stage could not stand up to Putin, but just how cosseted our president has been throughout his political career. As Rothman observes:
The greater offense in Obama’s allegedly humorous remark is not merely the unfounded assumption that he enjoys any credibility on international affairs, but that he is so unashamed of touting his own competence even in the near total absence of supporting evidence. These are remarks that only a president who has nothing to fear from America’s political satirists could make. A president with even a modest appreciation for the power of mockery would have displayed a touch more self-consciousness.