Dr. Jason Johnson and host, Stephanie Ruhle, discuss the Washington Post report counting 10,000 lies that President Trump has told since being in office.
Dr. Jason Johnson and host, Stephanie Ruhle, discuss the Washington Post report counting 10,000 lies that President Trump has told since being in office.
Dr. Jason Johnson discusses the aftermath caused by the testimony of Dr. Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, especially the reaction from journalists at Fox News. Other panel members include Michelle Bernard (Bernard Center For Women), Eric Deggans (MSNBC), Kurt Bardella (NBC News), and host, Joy Reid.
Even when you know a show is about an ensemble cast, there are still those who stand out. And when they’re not there, the entire show suffers. When Simon left American Idol; when Nene Leakes left Real Housewives of Atlanta; even way back when Toni left Girlfriends, you just knew the show just wouldn’t be the same, and usually, it was about to take a turn for the worse.
That was the feeling many Americans had going into Thursday night’s seventh and final preprimary debate for the Republican Party once it was clear that Donald Trump wasn’t going to show.
Did Trump’s absence make a difference? Did Marco Rubio make a leap? Did Ben Carson stay wokefor the entire debate? Here are the three biggest takeaways from Thursday’s debate, and their implications for the first presidential caucus in Iowa next week.
No Trump, No Problems
In a fight that’s been going on since August last year, Donald Trump continued his Kanye-Amber Rose-like feud with Fox host Megyn Kelly, and used her presence as a moderator as an excuse to skip Thursday’s debate.
Trump’s political “bye week” was supposed to open up the door for the debate to be radically different from the previous six, but that wasn’t the case. There were only around three questions about Donald Trump at the beginning of the debate, and they were handled effectively by Rubio, Ted Cruz and, to a lesser extent, Chris Christie. After that, the front-runner was mostly out of the picture.
The candidate most affected by Trump’s absence was actually Jeb Bush. Bush seemed entirely unsure of what to do with himself without Donald Trump there to kick sand in his face and give him the chance to trudge along the moral high road.
The former Florida governor made more unprompted references to Trump in absentia than every other candidate onstage. It was almost like Bush was nervously expecting the GOP front-runner to pull a Vince McMahon and jump onstage at the last minute to body him again for old times’ sake. On a night when everyone else got the direct message that Trump wasn’t going to be there, Jeb Bush was still using cable.
Strategic Questions Dominate the Night
The penchant for “strategy” questions during primary or presidential debates is a problem that has been pervasive throughout this campaign season. If the candidates are already going to be split into “main stage” and “undercard” debates (a generally lousy idea) then the least moderators can do is treat everyone onstage like they have a legitimate chance to compete. Unfortunately, moderators still asked Cruz, John Kasich and others questions regarding their viability as presidential candidates as opposed to sticking with policy questions.
However, in Thursday’s debate, there was an additional wrinkle that was new and equally problematic. The moderators were protecting the front-runners like Rubio and Cruz from questions that would highlight some of their less-than-“electable” opinions on hot-button social issues.
YouTube questions about criminal justice, GOP Muslim rhetoric and social issues were thrown at candidates like Rand Paul or John Kasich—ones who either have fairly moderate views on these issues or who wouldn’t gain or lose any ground with their answers.
Many political analysts assumed from the start of the primary campaign that the GOP field (once as large as 17 people) would be whittled down to two, maybe three, candidates after Iowa, at the latest. However, if you watch the excellent campaign reality series The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth on Showtime, candidates filmed just days before this debate were pretty adamant about the fact that they weren’t planning to drop out anytime soon.
Obviously, some of that is posturing, like President Barack Obama pretending he doesn’t really care who wins the Democratic nomination, or Michael Bloomberg drunk-texting America that he really, really wants to think about running for president again.
However, there was no QVC-sales desperation on the stage Thursday. There was no one claiming that if you didn’t caucus for them right now, this campaign might not last another week. John Kasich spent every minute he could touting his endorsements and rising polls in New Hampshire, which suggests that no matter what happens in Iowa, he’s going to stay in at least one more contest. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush both sounded equally committed to the race with not a hint of fatigue or finality in any of their words. It’s hard to tell with Ben Carson since he was never really running for president, but it’s a safe bet that six out of the seven people onstage Thursday, plus Donald Trump, will be continuing their pursuit of the Republican nomination past Iowa.
This article originally appeared online at The Root.
The first round of Republican presidential debates are done and they were for the most part, everything that everyone could’ve wanted them to be.
After all of the consternation from Fox News, the RNC and the individual candidates about who should be involved in the debate, the end result probably pleased everyone. Fox News got great theatre with spontaneous and unpredictable fights breaking out between candidates on stage over actual policy differences.
The RNC can breathe a sigh of relief that none of the major contenders (in their mind) committed any irrevocable gaffes. And lastly just about every candidate can go back to their donors and supporters saying that they “won”. With almost two hours of questions and 10 candidates, there are dozens of highlights but the top take-aways from the debate are pretty evident.
Donald Trump knows more about good television than anyone else on the stage including moderators Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier. It was obvious, and almost unseemly, how dedicated the Fox moderators were to insulting, diminishing and marginalizing Donald Trump at almost every turn.
In particular Chris Wallace seemed to almost sneer every time he spoke to Donald Trump. While many candidates faced tough questions Trump was the only one Wallace insisted “answer the question” while other candidates were allowed to slip by with stump speeches and talking points.
But in a classic example of why you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight Trump flipped the questions on Wallace, and his “Rosie O’Donnell” answer got a laugh out of Megyn Kelly when she thought she’d caught him on a question about his sexist comments.
Any Trump supporter saw the establishment puppet masters try to take him down and frankly, he stood up to them. Anyone who dislikes Trump saw the arrogant blowhard they always see. Anyone on the fence about Trump after this debate probably isn’t going to vote in the primary anyway.
2. Rand Runs with It
The key to winning any political debate, verbal joust, or even battle raps is to take down your opponent by staying on brand. If your brand is the nice guy, and you have to get nasty to fight back in the debate, you’ve already lost. Rand Paul is a firey libertarian, who seemed to be in the political wilderness for months despite a strong base of support with young voters and libertarians. In recent months he had been reduced to cheap stunts to gain attention and distract from a string of scandals that could end his campaign.
Despite all of this the first term Kentucky Senator seemed to remember himself once he got on stage and the Libertarian lightening rod brought himself back from the brink. They talked about scaling back foreign aid, the mistakes of the Iraq War, and the importance of privacy and security even while fighting terror.
He also took it to Trump on “single payer” healthcare and went head to head with Governor Christie on federal government wiretapping in what was the most substantive policy fight on stage all night. In the end, Rand Paul won out when Chris Christie had to pull out the bloody flag of 9-11 to justify his actions. Paul stayed on-brand and Chris Christie sounded like a throwback politician from the early 00s.
If you think Chris Christie won that fight you probably think Meek beat Drake too.
3. Affirmative Action Works
Affirmative Action is all about giving a fair chance to people who might’ve been locked out of an opportunity because of circumstances beyond their control. Circumstances like being born into poverty, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, or in the case of Ohio Governor John Kasich, “Timing Discrimination.”
Kasich was the 16th out of the 17 Republicans to announce his candidacy two weeks ago. Based on everything that Fox News had been releasing about their criteria for getting into the first debate (mainly that you had to be in the top 10 within 5 of the most recent national polls before the debate) there are some real questions as to whether or not John Kasich should’ve made the cut.
However, the RNC and Fox News knew that keeping Kasich out when the first debate is in Cleveland and next year’s convention is in Cleveland might cause some hard feelings down the line. So he got some GOP brand affirmative action. And like most recipients of Affirmative Action, once given a fair shake they excel beyond expectation.
John Kasich was masterful in his few short questions during the debate, justifying his purple state policies on Obamacare, gay marriage and choosing on his own to address racial injustice during his questions. His comments and views would’ve been wasted during the afternoon debate, but was a welcome and significant addition to the main event. And it’s likely that he legitimately earned a top 10 spot from now on.
This article originally appeared at NBC BLK.
The slate of Republicans running for the presidential nomination now stands at a pretty ungainly 16.
This is the largest number of GOP candidates in over 40 years, which presents some huge problems for the party, for the networks running debates and most importantly, for the voters.
So given that the GOP is going to field enough candidates for a very old, very rich basketball team, why not model the entire debate system after the NCAA Tournament? Debate bracketology can’t be any more complicated than the political scrum we’re facing right now. So who’s ready for a little political March Madness?
Fox and CNN are the first two networks carrying the Republican debates. They have created the arbitrary cut off of 10 participants, imposing a combination of the following standards to get on stage for the big game.
The Candidate must have:
And if you don’t meet these standards? Well you get to go to the political NIT. On Fox this means you’ll get a late afternoon roundtable and then do layup drills while the varsity team gets a prime time spot to answer the real questions. With CNN you get to do a charity tournament Q&A while the big dogs get a prime time spot.
There are literally dozens of problems with these criteria and debate set ups. Forcing presidential candidates to essentially run national campaigns to get into debates diminishes the importance of the first primary states, puts too much power into the hands of pollsters (who often employ slightly different methodologies), gives the networks a weaker product and robs the primary voter of being the ultimate decision maker.
The system works much better when the bar to entry is low, but the chances to prove yourself on the court are high. Just ask Rick Santorum. In early 2011 the one-term former Pennsylvania Senator was polling at 4 percent nationally, but he was able to participate in multiple debates, put together an amazing network on the ground in Iowa, and shocked the field by squeaking out a victory over Mitt Romney.
With the boost Santorum got from Iowa he raised a lot more money, jumped in the polls and ended up winning 11 primary states. Santorum was the classic bubble team that played Duke tough at the end of the season, got a bid in the tournament and Cinderella’d his way into the Final Four.
There’s a reason nobody liked the computer generated college football BCS and preferred the “play to stay” style NCAA tournament. It’s inherently anticompetitive and anti-democratic for candidates to be locked out of debates because of some arbitrary formula based on what works best for television, rather than competing head-to-head and letting the public and the voters decide.
Imagine the following scenario: Rather than have 10 debaters on stage and 6 relegated to obscurity with a consolation prize panel, how about giving all 16 a chance to shine by splitting them into brackets?
Candidates would be broken down by region, and there would be two reach debates with the top two polling candidates from each bracket getting to move on to the next round after the Iowa caucuses.
This would work out great for the Republican party. With 10 candidates on stage you increase the chances of someone saying something crazy that will come back to haunt the party in the general election. With the debate bracket format, candidates would be able to actually express their policies and political viewpoints rather than scramble for the ball whenever Jeb slips up or Trump isn’t hogging the microphone.
Plus, let’s say you performed well in debates but didn’t make the debate cut after Iowa, that doesn’t spell doom for a campaign, whereas being cut out of debates before Iowa all but guarantees you’re going fishing before the first ballot is counted.
This first round would give the public 8 debates (two for each bracket) over the next 5 months – and if the 2012 GOP debates were any indicator this would be a ratings boon for every network carrying one of these “Bracket Debates”.
Like the NCAA tourney, you don’t really want to see Duke vs. Michigan State in the first round. You want to build up to the competition — not see some great player knocked out before the big dance.
Just imagine these first round match ups and tell me Chuck Todd, Sean Hannity and Wolf Blitzer wouldn’t be having a field day with pre-debate Bracketology coverage:
Northeast: Trump vs. Christie, The Tumble on The Turnpike! This would be like one of those old school Georgetown vs. Syracuse slugfests from the 80s.
Southeast: Rand Paul’s libertarian conservatism vs. Jeb Bush’s common core hedging. Will Rand Paul be “one and done” like most Kentucky players? Or could his rapid fire political offense upset the Bush dynasty? And don’t forget about the stifling national defense rhetoric of Marco Rubio sneaking in late in the 4th.
Midwest: Wouldn’t American voters be better served by a first round matchup between Scott Walker’s Koch Brothers conservatism, Mike Huckabee’s values-voter rhetoric and John Kasich’s purple state practicality for an hour rather than watching them scramble for 30 seconds of scraps after Jeb Bush is done talking?
Would this system be more expensive? In the short term, yes. Organizing 8 debates between now and the Iowa Caucuses in January would take a lot of work, but the end result would be great television and it would be great for Democracy. We should be finding ways to include MORE people in presidential politics, not less.
It’s not the press, or the pundits or even the party’s job to decide who gets to present themselves to the public as a presidential candidate. It’s the people. And the people, like, understand and can get engaged in a sports analogy for American electoral politics.
Who knows, we might get surprised and have a presidential candidate get hot in the first round and knock out a few ‘contenders’. We’ve already had some Razorbacks and apparently a Blue Devil compete for the white House, I wouldn’t mind a Cinderella getting the chance.
This article originally appeared online at NBC BLK.
Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor, political analyst and public speaker. Fresh, unflappable, objective, he is known for his ability to break down stories with wit and candor. Johnson is the author the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell, a tenured professor in the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and Politics Editor at TheRoot.com. Dr. Johnson has an extensive public speaking and media background ranging from … [Read More...] about About Jason Johnson