BLOG: Trump and Carson lobby for a change in debate format and win
By: Dan Prager
Donald Trump and Ben Carson have teamed up to change the format of the next Republican debate on CNBC. Outraged by the lack of opening and closing statements in the upcoming debate, they publicly threatened to boycott the debate unless statements were added and the debate was shortened. Saturday, CNBC caved to their demands after the RNC came to the defense of the candidates. This may seem like a minor thing, but it can, and likely will, have major effects on who wins and loses the debate.
Opening and closing statements are simply prepared statements that candidates use to give the media sound bites and headlines which help their campaign. Trump and Carson have been notoriously quiet during the middle parts of the debate. In the Fox News debate, Carson dodged nearly every question and looked as though he did not know what he was talking about. However, he was able to provide a closing statement that blew up on social media and, subsequently, he was announced as a winner by most news organizations.
In the second debate, a policy-heavy discussion that lasted three hours, Trump fell behind. He stopped talking and, when he did talk, it was an ad-hominem attack on an opponent. Many said Trump lost the debate; however, his promises of grandeur (building a big wall, making the country “better than it’s ever been before”, etc.) gave him plenty of attention. The same happened to Carson. He stumbled through answers and stayed quiet. However, his statements on helping the children in his opening garnered applause.
Trump and Carson have a history of providing shaky and, sometimes, flat-out wrong answers. In a radio interview, Trump was asked about U.S. enemies in the Middle East and he did not know many of their names. During the second debate, he responded with “There are few people anywhere that would have known those names,” admitting he was unaware of certain forces a commander-in-chief should know about. Carson, in a recent interview, was asked about the debt ceiling, and proved to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the debt ceiling was. He also recently confused Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that the country invaded Iraq, not Afghanistan, to get to Bin Laden.
Losing the opening and closing statements could greatly damage the two front runners. However, it provides a huge benefit to every other candidate. Two or three hours with policy as the main talking points would lead to candidates like Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio gaining most of the attention. Consequently, the most interesting thing about this is why other Republican candidates agreed with Trump and Carson. Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz all supported Trump and Carson in private complaints to CNBC. Paul and Bush are Trump’s two biggest enemies in the race. As more time gets added to the debate, the more flaws begin to appear in both the Trump and Carson campaigns, yet Paul, Bush, and Carson supported their competitors. Two candidates have taken advantage of this situation. One is Lindsey Graham, who offered to take the spot of anyone who quit. The other is Carly Fiorina, who attacked the two front runners. She tweeted, “You know, prepared statements are what politicians do. So, honestly, here are two outsiders supposedly. Donald Trump and Ben Carson — they sound a lot like politicians tonight to me.”
As for CNBC, backing down might have been the wrong choice. Letting Trump walk may have created more press for their debate. There are many candidates that could replace them on stage, and there was the possibility that Trump was bluffing. However, once the RNC came in to back up their demands, it was the only choice they could have made.
It makes perfect sense that Carson and Trump would want these statements; they have carried both candidates to debate wins. The American people were close to seeing what Trump and Carson could do when it came down to policy, but in the end, this was a win for sensationalized politics. As long as a candidate can make promises of grandeur and instill fear in voters, it no longer matters if he or she actually knows about policy. CNBC came so close to being able to prolong the dignity of American politics for just a bit longer. It’s a shame that they could not.