Dec 21, 2015 by


Watching the most recent GOP debate was exasperating, but if you’re a political junkie it was still a must. Based on the ratings (it drew 18 million viewers), it was the third most-watched debate ever. This signals that either the Republican presidential debate has become entertainment, or there is much angst among our populace. In reality, it’s likely both.

There was some humor in watching the debate. A “tough” Jeb Bush sparring with Donald Trump was amusing to watch. Lindsey Graham having the unmitigated gall to yearn out loud for a return to the Bush administration was funny—in a rather macabre way. Saturday Night Live will have a hard time trying to make fun of the debate, as the comedy was already baked into the original.

The problem, however, is a very serious one: CNN conducted a debate with questions that in effect told Americans that we are at war, that we are under attack, and Republicans were happy to have a debate on those terms. After all, their modus operandi is based on living in an alternate state of reality—and convincing Americans of that reality.

While live tweeting the debate, it was impossible to keep up with the ignorance and the misinformation. One hopes that the sheer volume of crowdsourced tweets (check out the hashtag #GOPDebate) helped do the job CNN failed to do: Challenge the candidates to be truthful.

Rachel Maddow did a piece recently that highlighted several lies, as well as misleading and ignorant statements by several of the candidates. Here are just some of the highlights.

Chris Christie thought King Hussein was still the King of Jordan. He lied or was unaware that Russia was a longtime ally of Syria when he stated that President Obama invited Russia into Syria. Carly Fiorina flat-out lied about the president getting rid of generals. And Donald Trump was unaware of the nuclear triad.

These candidates are pompous about effecting a strong and belligerent foreign policy for the alternate reality they have created. Worse, many seem not to understand that, as Jeb Bush would say, “I know what I don’t know.” Of course it’s evident that if that were true, his statements on both foreign policy and domestic policy would be quite different.

Anyone who saw the promo for the GOP debate has to be aware that CNN marketed the debate as entertainment. It was promoted as a boxing match. That would be forgivable if they then asked substantive questions relevant to reality, and the actual state of middle-class and poor America. In these times of never-ending distractions everywhere, getting eyeballs isn’t very easy. But instead of capitalizing on that very entertaining promo, CNN seemed to deliberately play on the grounds the GOP has been laying out: America is at war.

To be clear, America is not at war. America is not under attack. There are terrorists who hate us for a myriad of reasons, but they do not represent actual states. They are thugs and private organizations. They require police action that yes, requires the help of the military. The Daily Kos piece I wrote, “Will we be conned into war again,” still applies. More than 30,000 people in America per year are killed by our gun culture. Most terrorist acts in the United States are neither Islamic or from overseas.

Indeed, there are many wars we need to fight. If CNN were not derelict in its duty, the debate moderators wouldn’t have allowed the GOP war footing to be placed firmly on terrorism, and Islamic terrorism specifically.

If CNN were not derelict in its duty, the debate moderators would have asked the Republican candidates the following questions:

    •  If you believe the small number of deaths in America caused by Islamic terrorism warrants a war, why is a war not warranted on those who promote a gun culture that is killing north of 30,000 Americans every year?
    •  Why is there not a war on the lack of health care, given the number of Americans who die from the lack of it every year? We are always able to find money to grease the military industrial complex to fight wars of choice—why not our health care system, which saves instead of destroys lives?
    • Why don’t we have a war on our crumbling infrastructure, potholes, failed systems, or falling bridges that kill or maim?
  • Why is there not a war on income and wealth inequality, which creates a catastrophic burden on the lives of millions?

CNN got a lot of eyeballs. This makes the network’s duty in a debate that much more important: To probe the candidates in order for Americans to have the necessary information to vet them. It’s not CNN’s job to simply allow the candidates to set the agenda. CNN, like all the other networks airing these debates, has simply become a two-hour advertisement for the political parties.

Presidential debates are now nothing more than an infomercial.

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