Bad Moderating, or Bad Debating? What about Hillary?

It was overshadowed by the Paris terrorist attacks, but the Democratic Presidential hopeful debate still showed something about the candidates.

It was overshadowed by the Paris terrorist attacks, but the Democratic Presidential hopeful debate still showed something about the candidates.

TNH Executive Editor Constantinos Scaros and historian-author Dan Georgakas had a look at what happened.


Dino, I think the winner of the Republican “debate” of October 28 was Hilary Clinton. In an event focusing on economic policy, the Republican presidential hopefuls came up with haphazard plans filled with inconsistencies and lacking detail. Their rhetoric was long on bombast but short on content.

Gov. John Kasich termed the economics proposals of the first speakers as fantasies. Gov. Mike Huckabee was even blunter, calling them lipstick on the mouth of a pig. Neither, however, developed their critiques effectively.

Most of the candidates proposed that a flat tax replace the graduated income tax. By definition, a flat tax lowers the tax rate for the wealthy. At a time when the income gap between the top 1% and everyone else is skyrocketing, this is exactly the wrong economic medicine.

Senator Ted Cruz declared income tax returns could be reduced to a postcard. Not said was that this means saying goodbye to deductions for categories such as home mortgages, health care, education, and tax-advantaged retirement accounts. Carly Fiorina opined the tax code could be reduced to three pages as that is the limit that average taxpayers can handle.

When Dr. Ben Carson was informed that his proposal for tithing would not balance the budget, he replied he was speaking metaphorically. The rate would likely be 15% or perhaps 20%. Or? He didn’t know. Carson denied working for the food supplement industry, but he couldn’t explain why he is featured on the home page of Mannatech, a food supplement producer.

The candidates complained that the United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world.

They apparently are not aware that the percent of taxes actually paid by American corporation is the lowest in the developed world. All insisted deregulation would unleash corporate power and create jobs. Statistical evidence indicates no such correlation. The considerable deregulation of banks, in fact, was a major cause of the financial crisis of 2008.

The candidates did not take positions on the trans-Pacific trade agreement or fracking. None advocated allowing Medicare/Medicaid to bargain on drug prices. The result would be a drop in consumer costs of 50-75%. Companies would remain profitable but not super profitable.

Gov. Jeb Bush acted like a deer caught in the headlights of an SUV. He rightly pointed out that Sen. Marco Rubio is absent for 70% of Senate votes. Rubio had a prepared answer. Inexplicably, Bush had not been coached on an appropriate counterpunch and was unable to improvise. Imagine him negotiating with Vladimir Putin.

Bush noted that fantasy football is an untaxed and unregulated form of gambling. Gov. Chris Christie immediately berated him for raising a trivial issue when they needed to talk about defeating ISIS. Bush had no riposte and failed to point out this “debate” was to be on economic policy, not foreign policy.

When Donald Trump was challenged about a hostile remark regarding Facebook, he denied making the statement and chided the reporter for using unreliable sources. Informed that the source was his own website, Trump argued the statement didn’t mean when it seemed to mean.

The candidates advocated raising our military spending even though it already is larger than that of the next four nations combined. They were outraged that the nation currently has a smaller Navy than in 1914. They seemed oblivious to the reality that weapons called airplanes, guided missiles, drones, and a few thousand atomic bombs serve the same purpose that used to require a larger Navy.

Given the quality of the presentations at this “debate,” this might be the time for a sober Republican dark horse to consider saddling up.


Dan, it’s too bad the presidential debates do not coincide with our publication dates, as once again we have to omit commenting on the most recent debate, on November 10 on the Fox Business Channel, but we’ll save that for a future discussion.

While I certainly think that Hillary Clinton was the winner of her own (Democratic) debate, because Bernie Sanders all but fawned over her and the others were so listless they would have been more useful as door ushers at the event.

But I don’t think she won the October 28 Republican debate by default. In fact, I agree with conventional wisdom (for a change), that all of the GOP candidates won that one, precisely because they made those horrible moderators look so bad (see my column last week: “CNBC’s Moderators Committed Journalistic Malpractice”).

As for the debaters themselves, as compared to their counterparts in years past, I think have shone thus far. That a guy like George Pataki can’t even muster 1% of the vote, and a frontrunner-caliber candidate like Mike Huckabee can’t break into the top tier, or even the middle tier, evidences that this is a much better bunch than in years past.

Consider, for instance, that Rick Perry and Rick Santorum vied for frontrunner status four years ago, and this time around, Perry dropped out right away and Santorum probably will any day now (and maybe even did by the time our readers see this), neither able to gain any traction at all.

So as not to repeat what I wrote last week about the CNBC moderators, I will only say that I agree with you insofar as some of the questions were legitimate. But all you need is one atrocity and no one remembers any of the positive. For example, no one cares that the police officers who beat Rodney King arrested several other people earlier that day without incident of violence.

It is a shame that Hillary is not going to be tested by her own party, and unless she winds up in jail or at least on trial, will probably coast to the Democratic nomination with not an ounce of criticism hurled her way, except by Fox News and conservative talk radio.

That may come back to haunt her, though, because depending on who the Republican nominee is, she’s going to have her hands full.

My main worry about the GOP nominee being Dr. Ben Carson has nothing to do with whether he thinks Joseph from the Old Testament built the Egyptian pyramids, or that he once made the dopey statement that “going to prison makes you gay.”

It is because he is soft-spoken and doesn’t “get down in the mud,” as he proudly proclaims. Well, that’s going to be a problem when taking on the vicious and relentless Clinton Political Machine.

The GOP’s ranking pit bulls – at least the ones running for president this time around – are Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina. The lambs, besides Carson, are Jeb Bush, Jim Gilmore, John Kasich, and George Pataki.

The pit bulls who’ve had their teeth extracted and are thus aggressive but can only gum Hillary, not bit her, are Linsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum.

But the two she really needs to watch out for are the lambs with razor-sharp teeth, ones who can tear her head off and look gentlemanly doing so: Mike Huckabee, and Marco Rubio. That Huckabee’s candidacy is so stagnant still baffles me, but Rubio may be the one Hillary dreads facing the most – and she’s got reason to worry.