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GOP overplayed CNBC debate fiasco

The GOP had valid criticism of the CNBC debate moderators’ liberal bias, but then they took it too far.
The GOP had valid criticism of the CNBC debate moderators’ liberal bias, but then they took it too far. AP

Where do Republicans get that special talent for turning gold to dross? They score an electoral “massacre” (The Economist) in 2014 and, a year later, what do they have to show for it other than another threat to shut down the government? Hillary Clinton is caught in email flagrante and Benghazi mendacity and yet, with one Kevin McCarthy gaffe and a singularly ineffective 11-hour Benghazi hearing, Republicans render her sanitized.

And now their latest feat. They win a stunning victory over their perennial nemesis, the mainstream media, and within a week they so overplayed their hand as to dissipate whatever sympathetic advantage they gained.

The CNBC debate was a gift for the GOP, so unadorned a demonstration of liberal condescension, hostility and arrogance that the rest of the media were forced to denounce and ridicule their ham-handed colleagues. Instead of quitting while they were ahead, the Republicans plunged into a week of bouncing around a series of demands, including control of the kind of questions that may or may not be asked at future debates.

Who’s the genius who thought up that one? First, it instantly allowed the liberal media to turn the tables and play defenders of journalistic independence against GOP bullies.

Second, it made the Republicans look small. To paraphrase Chris Christie’s “fantasy football” moment, the economy is in the tank, Russia is on the move, the Islamic State is on the attack – and the candidates are debating the proper room temperature for a debate forum?

Third, this continues the season-long GOP diversion from what should be its real target – the wreckage wrought by seven years of Barack Obama. The greatest irony of this campaign is that Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the ones making the case that the economy is stagnant, inequality growing and the middle class falling increasingly behind. That’s a devastating indictment of Democratic governance, exactly the case Republicans should have been making all year. Instead, they’ve wasted months trading schoolboy taunts and ad hominems.

Now another distraction. The party is demanding there be no repetition of the CNBC debate. Why, for God’s sake? That debate was the best thing to happen to the GOP since Michael Dukakis.

Won’t someone tell the Republicans that they won? Don’t they realize that fear of ridicule alone will temper the instincts of whatever liberal questioners are chosen?

CNBC produced the best night of the entire campaign season for the GOP. And yet some Republicans were determined to turn it into another theater of their civil war against the GOP “establishment.” This time the target was Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Priebus’ job, the party’s job, is to control the number of debates and set the calendar. Its doing so in 2015-16 constitutes a significant achievement, considering the damage done to the GOP in 2011-2012 by its 20 freelance debates.

Ted Cruz has suggested that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin moderate Republican debates. Good idea, wrong target. How about this arrangement? Limbaugh & Co. should moderate the Democratic debates. What a splendid blood-soaked spectacle that would be.

As for the GOP? Bring on the liberals. The Republicans should demand the return of Harwood, Quick and Quintanilla, until the end of time.

Email: letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

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