What happened
Conservative commentators complained that CNN showed a liberal bias by allowing Democratic partisans to pose tough questions to Republican presidential candidates in Wednesday’s debate. The format of the debate, in which the GOP hopefuls fielded videotaped questions submitted by the public via YouTube, was criticized by several candidates beforehand because they said it was undignified. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
It’s hard to defend CNN on this one, said Michelle Malkin in the New York Post (free registration). Despite an army of “fact-checkers,” CNN let a retired general ask a question about gays in the military without mentioning that he was a Hillary Clinton supporter. Backers of Barack Obama and John Edwards also got a turn, masquerading as “undecided” voters. “Cluelessness doesn't absolve CNN of journalistic malpractice.”

“I don't know if the folks who put the debate together were purposely trying to make the Republican candidates look bad,” said Fred Barnes in The Daily Standard, “but they certainly succeeded.” There were no questions on important issues like health care, the economy, and the Iraq “surge.” Instead, the candidates looked silly bobbling skewed inquiries “on the Confederate flag, Mars, Giuliani's rooting for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series," and the Bible.

Lighten up, said Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A race featuring “eight Republican white men in suits” needs all the spice it can get. And CNN delivered. “The fireworks! The digs! The mocking aspersions flying around the auditorium!” This was the first GOP debate that was actually “worth watching.”

Oh, it was "entertaining," said Blake Dvorak in RealClearPolitics. But the YouTube experiment won't democratize and revolutionize presidential campaigning, as CNN promised. The whole venture ended Wednesday night in "embarrassing failure" because CNN didn't level with the rest of us about who was asking the questions.