On October 30th, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus sent a letter to NBC cancelling the RNC’s partnership with NBC for a scheduled February debate in Houston Texas. Priebus’ grievance was that NBC’s partner network CNBC asked questions that weren’t fair to the Republican candidates.
I write to inform you that pending further discussion between the Republican National Committee (RNC) and our presidential campaigns, we are suspending the partnership with NBC News for the Republican primary debate at the University of Houston on February 26, 2016. The RNC’s sole role in the primary debate process is to ensure that our candidates are given a full and fair opportunity to lay out their vision for America’s future. We simply cannot continue with NBC without full consultation with our campaigns.
The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith. We understand that NBC does not exercise full editorial control over CNBC’s journalistic approach. However, the network is an arm of your organization, and we need to ensure there is not a repeat performance…
I have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. However, I also expect the media to host a substantive debate on consequential issues important to Americans. CNBC did not.
While we are suspending our partnership with NBC News and its properties, we still fully intend to have a debate on that day, and will ensure that National Review remains part of it.
There is little question that the CNBC debate was a disaster and that the CNBC moderators were ill-prepared and often asked silly questions. However, Priebus is overlooking the fact that part of what made the debate, and the two GOP debates that preceded it bad jokes, was the candidates themselves.
The Republican field is chock full of ill-prepared candidates who can’t answer even the simplest questions and who are unable to explain how their ideas will help the American people. National Review debate moderators may lob softball questions at Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz, but that won’t save the candidates from looking foolish, because it is their answers and not the questions that have turned the GOP primary debate schedule into a traveling circus.
Republicans are now in a perpetual feedback loop, where they must blame outside villains for their candidate’s dismal debate performances, over and over again. The GOP simply refuses to own up to the fact that the reason the debates are a string of failures is due to the poor quality of the candidates themselves. Priebus can suspend the GOP’s partnership with NBC and cancel them from conducting the February debate, but that won’t solve the problem. For the problem is the Republican field itself, and the answers they give, not the questions they are asked.