Told You CNN Would F*ck Up The Debates

The CNN double-header two-night Debate Thunderdome is in the books, and God, it sucked.

First of all, we can conclusively say at this point that the DNC's new format, while well intentioned, fell flat. Enough of 20 candidates putting their names in a hat and ruining TWO NIGHTS of America's week, especially at the end of July. They should just put all the lesser candidates in a kids' table debate that nobody watches, or maybe they could just put them in the balls at Chuck E. Cheese and let them fight until security throws them out. Fuck 'em.

But we can also say that if you compare MSNBC's attempts to work within the debate format to CNN's attempts, there was a clear loser, and it was CNN. Moderators Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon were obsessed with the time limits to the point that it was ridiculous, and it turns out 30 seconds -- or 15 for a response -- isn't enough time for a candidate to actually say something. So instead, what we got were two debates that lasted far longer than they should (almost THREE HOURS per night), full of halting questions and answers that conveyed little substance, and lacked any sort of rhythm that engaged the viewers. During the MSNBC debates, when something would organically happen on the stage, the moderators would pull back and allow the thing to happen, which led to memorable moments like when Kamala Harris spoke directly to Joe Biden about busing. In the CNN debates, on the other hand, if candidates didn't have a canned zinger ready for every single question, then good luck trying to say anything that might involve nuance or complex thought before Jake Tapper would horn in and yell at them about his stopwatch so he could tee up his next Fox News question.

And ah yes, the stupid questions, which are the point of this post.

Back in 2015, during the Republican primary, CNBC hosted a debate after which the RNC screamed BIASSSSSSSS, when in fact the questions were fine. The GOP candidates even got to say which woman they'd most like to see on the $20 bill, and their VERY GOOD ANSWER was mostly "my mom," because you know how the Treasury Department is, always putting everybody's mom on money for Mother's Day. In order to handily rebut the RNC's complaints, Wonkette decided to make a list of all the debate questions, just to have a record to point to when Republicans started whining. And now that time has come again, for a different reason -- not because the candidates are complaining, but because it wouldn't be terrible if they did, as some of CNN's questions were lazy as fuck and/or factually wrong and/or and used Republican talking points so much they sounded like Chris Cillizza and Chuck Todd wrote them together in a bubble bath so big it has room for both sides to fuck each other to death.

Because we're dealing with two nights here, we're not going to list every question, but rather just highlight some of the worst ones, the ones that should make Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and Don Lemon feel very bad. There won't be as many questions from the first night, because the second night was markedly worse. (Transcript of night one is here, transcript of night two here.)

Let's Fearmonger About Medicare For All Taking Healthcare From 150 MILLION PEOPLE!

TAPPER: Senator Sanders, let's start with you. You support Medicare for All, which would eventually take private health insurance away from more than 150 million Americans, in exchange for government-sponsored health care for everyone.

That's right, Tapper. Democrats are trying to take away people's healthcare. Let's insinuate that, because it is definitely a factual statement!

Here Are Some Republican Talking Points On Immigrant INVASIONS!

BASH: Mayor Buttigieg, you're in favor of getting rid of the law that makes it a crime to come across the US border illegally. Why won't that just encourage more illegal immigration?

BASH: Senator Sanders, you want to provide undocumented immigrants free health care and free college. Why won't this drive even more people to come to the US illegally?

BASH: Congressman Ryan, are Senator Sanders's proposals going to incentivize undocumented immigrants to come into this country illegally?

Oh no, Dana Bash, the Democrats are inviting one million caravans to invade America, AND THEY'RE GIVING THEM PARTY FAVORS!

Let's Just Repeat The Busing Fight, That Was Good Ratings For NBC!

TAPPER: Senator Harris, you have also been quite critical of Vice President Biden's policies on race, specifically on the issues of busing in the 1970s, having benefitted from busing when you were a young child. Vice President Biden says that your current position on busing, you're opposed to federally mandated busing, that that position is the same as his position. Is he right?

Lazy lazy lazy lazy lazy. Stop it.

Bernie Sanders, Please Explain How You And Donald Trump Are Not Literally The Same Person.

TAPPER: Senator Sanders, President Trump has argued that the United States cannot continue to be the, quote, "policeman of the world." You said the exact same thing on a debate stage in 2016. If voters are hearing the same message from you and President Trump on the issue of military intervention, how should they expect that you will be any different from him?

Maybe because Bernie Sanders isn't an absolute moron and actually has foreign policy beliefs besides "whatever Russia and the Saudis tell me to do"?

Kamala Harris, Please Explain How YOU And Donald Trump Are Not Exactly The Same Person.

LEMON: Senator Harris, you have criticized President Trump for interfering with the Justice Department, and just last month you said if you were elected president, your Justice Department would, quote, "have no choice and should go forward with obstruction of justice charges against former President Trump." Why is it OK for you to advocate for the Justice Department to prosecute somebody, but President Trump, not him?

That's right, Don, because there's no difference at all between a criminal president installing a poor man's Roy Cohn as the attorney general in order to rig the Justice Department to protect him, and a presidential candidate saying her Justice Department would likely conclude on its own that it has "no choice" but to hold the current president accountable for crimes we already know he committed. She clarified that in her response to the question, but she shouldn't have needed to, because it was a stupid question.

You get the idea.

Many of the questions were fine, we guess because it's really hard to fuck up "Would you bring all the troops home from Afghanistan?"

Notably not covered? Abortion rights, which are under constant assault under Trump, as he installs insane federal judges all the way up to the Supreme Court, and as Republican-led states, obviously feeling froggy, are pushing as far as they can to criminalize abortion without actually technically criminalizing it. (Except for the ones who are actually criminalizing it.) The subject was briefly addressed last night when Kamala Harris, on her own, went after Joe Biden for supporting the Hyde Amendment until approximately seven minutes ago, when he flip-flopped because people got mad at him. The moderators didn't make that happen.

We don't have any more yelling to do about this, because so far, only seven candidates have qualified for the September debates, and if that number stays low, then maybe we won't have to do two nights in a row. (PRAY.) Also, it's an ABC debate, so it probably won't suck as hard as this one.

The point, as always, is that CNN is bad and CNN should feel bad, and now we never want to talk about these boring-ass debates ever again.

[Debate transcript Night One / Night Two]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the managing editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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