Rick Perry must be breathing a big sigh of relief. On Saturday night, CBS News and National Journal hosted a foreign policy–focused Republican presidential debate, and for once, most of the post-debate fireworks focused not on any particular gaffe by a candidate, but rather on CBS News anchor and moderator Scott Pelley. Back-of-the-pack candidates were angry over their lack of air time, with Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) team furiously pointing to an intercepted CBS email that discussed limiting Bachmann's questions. (CBS News political director John Dickerson wrote that Bachmann was "not going to get many questions," apparently because she's polling so poorly.) Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) campaign accused CBS of "arrogance" in trying to pick the GOP nominee, calling its moderating "disgraceful." Did CBS screw up?
CBS really blew it: "If there was a loser on the debate stage... it was CBS," says Marc Theissen at National Review. First of all, the network erred by scheduling the debate on a Saturday night during college football season, and then only broadcasting the first hour on TV, with the final 30 minutes only available online in much of the country. And "Scott Pelley was a terrible moderator," treating the candidates "like schoolchildren," lecturing them, and cutting them off mid-sentence. "This was CBS's first and only debate — and it showed."
"The big loser of the night: CBS"
The candidates need to quit whining: CBS had less than 90 minutes to grill eight candidates on a world of foreign policy, so "it wasn't wrong, at this point, to use some approach other than egalitarianism," says Ann Althouse at her blog. Paul may have a point about being marginalized, but Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and maybe even Rick Santorum were "lucky to be included in the debate at all." Playing the "'fairness' card" at this stage in the campaign just sounds like whining.
"'It gets a little lonely over here in Siberia from time to time'..."
And let's not ignore the "scary" substance of this debate: The GOP candidates' "eye-popping" answers showed we shouldn't take their debate on foreign policy seriously, says Fred Kaplan at Slate. Bachmann wants us to be more like China? Herman Cain wants to waterboard prisoners? A Republican president might cut off all aid to Pakistan? Or prepare to bomb Iran? "God help us if any of these jokers makes it into the White House."
"The date-night debate"