Thursday, October 29, 2015

In total defense of Cruz's skewering of the media

As everyone who is paying attention to politics in the U.S.A. certainly knows by now, last night's CNBC-hosted GOP debate was the worst presidential debate in the history of the universe. And not because it was filled with pompous, self-righteous, arrogant little pricks, but because it was moderated by pompous, self-righteous, arrogant little pricks. If CNBC had any more egg on its face from last night's debacle, it could serve up an egg-white omelet large enough to feed half the stars in Hollywood. More, if Tom Cruise didn't show up.

One of the most memorable moments of the debate came from Ted Cruz, who took issue with a question he was being asked and used it as a jumping off point to say this:

A pretty good moment for Cruz, a pretty poor one for CNBC and the reast of the mainstream media.

And interestingly enough, Cruz's comments about the way the debate was being conducted have earned him quite a few "way to go Ted"s and "damn, Ted Cruz is right"s, not only from people on the Right, but also from people in the Left, and even from members of the media elite. And that's because it's tough to take issue with what Cruz said, relative to the conduct of the moderators and the questions that they were asking. Who could possibly defend Carlos Quintanilla and the question he asked that prompted the above rant from Cruz?

Enter the media apologia, from—unsurprisingly—a columnist at The New Yorker, one Amy Davidson. In this piece, Davidson actually tries to argue that the question asked of Cruz was a perfectly valid one:
For the record, this was the question that inspired Cruz’s rant about insubstantiality: “Congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear of—another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?” Given that Cruz’s previous responses to such crises have included filibustering the Senate with a reading of “Green Eggs and Ham,” and that he has, in just the past month, been involved in a squabble with his fellow-Republicans over his efforts to make the debt ceiling a hostage in the fight against Planned Parenthood, it was a pretty good question, which Cruz blithely ignored.
Sorry Ms. Davidson, no it was not a "pretty good question." Because it was what is known as a loaded question, purposefully designed to make it almost impossible for Cruz to answer without looking bad. It's similar in nature to "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" Or—a question that could be directed at Davidson—"given your apparent ignorance of fallacies of argument, are you the type of person who should be writing columns for The New Yorker?"

Look at the question again:
"Does your opposition to [this compromise bill on a serious issue] show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?"
Possible answers:
1) No, it shows that I am the kind of problem solver American voters want because I refuse to compromise, even in order to solve a serious problem. 
2) Yes, it shows I am not the kind of problem solver American voters want, so don't vote for me. 
3) I don't understand the question.
There is no good option available for Cruz straight up, and again that is by design. It's not the kind of question a moderator asks at a debate, it's the kind of question a partisan hack asks to trap an opponent.

This really isn't rocket science. It's debate 101. Anyone with half a brain can see the trap here, can see why the question is unfair. So claiming that it is a "pretty good question" means one has less than half a brain or one is being totally partisan, is not being objective in the least. I don't think Davidson is stupid, so I'm going to go with the second choice.

And as further evidence in this regard, check out another part of Davidson's piece. After quoting the beginning of Cruz's rant in answer to Quintanilla's question, Davidson describes what happens next thusly:
He got a big round of applause, which Carlos Quintanilla, one of the moderators for CNBC, tried to interrupt, asking, “Do we get credit…,” before Cruz interrupted him again.
Watch the clip again. Quintanilla tries to talk over the applause and ask Cruz what was clearly going to to a self-congratulatory question, but Cruz isn't done talking so he cuts Quintanilla off with "Carl, I'm not finished yet," then continues his comments. Davidson characterizes this as Cruz interrupting Quintanilla again. What "again"? Cruz never interrupted Quintanilla to begin with, just took issue with the loaded question that he was being asked. And at this moment, it was Quintanilla doing the interrupting, regardless. Yet Davidson tries to give the impression that Cruz is just interrupting left and right. Tres disingenuous, to say the least.

In short, Davidson's piece amounts to a pathetic attempt to defend CNBC. She mis-characterizes events, doesn't offer an honest assessment of the question asked by Quintanilla, and presents it all through a fully partisan lens. Thus, completely proving Cruz's central thesis.


  1. Not a Cruz fan but classic stuff and great analysis. I would have thought CNBC would have been throwing softballs at the republicans.

  2. I'm not really a Cruz fan, either. But he got this right. Thanks for the comment.