Masthead: CNN moderators at GOP presidential debate should have focused on substance, not spectacle

Full Staff Opinion

“Governor Bush, would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?” “Governor Christie, I want to ask you about something that Dr. Carson said the other day.” 

    The above two quotes are questions that were asked of the Grand Old Party’s contenders during Wednesday night’s CNN Republican presidential debate.

    We of The College Reporter noticed while watching the debate, plucky young journalists that we are, that the 11 Oval Office-hopefuls were asked quite a bit about the issues, but more noticeably, quite a bit about each other. Jake Tapper, the debate’s moderator, spent a fair amount of Wednesday’s media maelstrom trying to get candidates to trash-talk one another. The Washington Post, among other organizations, published a full transcript of the debate on their website, and the thing reads more like a “Real Housewives of Atlanta” script than a discussion among people who may one day be president. And we feel like even NeNe wouldn’t have been this catty.

    Wednesday’s event was exactly that: an event. The 11 candidates were asked about very pressing concerns, to be sure, but they were also prodded and provoked into hounding each other. And what’s more frustrating is that CNN literally asked for this. This network asked these governors, politicians, CEOs, and neurosurgeons to weigh in not on, say, the Syrian refugee crisis, but on what terrible things Donald Trump has been saying. This news network sanctioned this. And in featuring it on their network, they legitimized it.

    CNN didn’t give us a reasoned talk about what’s plaguing our country, and what solutions candidates are posing, so much as it tried to add even more shareable sound-bites and drama into this self-perpetuating feeding-frenzy of an election season. We are focused not on substance, but on easy-to-sell spectacle. But hey, why would we discuss the worst refugee crisis since World War II when we could try to make Donald Trump apologize to Jeb Bush’s wife? We’d watch that again.

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