Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Are Trump and Cruz right that "no tough questions" were asked of Clinton in the Democratic debate?

Donald Trump says (this is my transcript from watching the video embedded at that link):

We have to be treated a little bit fairly. As an example, Hillary Clinton — no tough questions! I mean, why didn't they ask about Bill? Why didn't they ask about all of the different things? No tough questions! Now, that was staged by the Democrats. And frankly, they did a very smart thing in the way they staged it. . . . Hillary had only softballs, all night long.
This is similar to what Ted Cruz said in the last debate — that the Republican debate stood in "contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, 'Which of you is more handsome and wise?'"

Well, Trump and Cruz must been watching some other Democratic debate that I haven't heard about. This was the first question in the Democratic debate I saw:
Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you're for it. You defended President Obama's immigration policies. Now you say they're too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the "gold standard". Now, suddenly, last week, you're against it. Will you say anything to get elected?
The moderator, Anderson Cooper, interrupted her answer to say:
Secretary Clinton, though, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd you'd, quote, "take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values." Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to, quote, "being kind of moderate and center." Do you change your political identity based on who you're talking to?
Later in the debate, Clinton and all the other candidates were asked a series of questions about her emails — clearly not a topic she wants to discuss. That portion of the debate did end up helping her — but only because another candidate, Bernie Sanders, made a big show of coming to her defense. Even after that, Cooper kept trying to get other candidates to attack Clinton over her emails.

But even aside from the fact that Trump and Cruz are counting on people not remembering or not having watching the Democratic debate, I don't understand why Republican candidates are wasting their time whining about getting tough questions. It might be momentarily uncomfortable for the candidate getting the question, but that's what they signed up for. Even if you think some of the questions are unfair, they still help the party overall, by making sure the eventual nominee is someone who can take the heat. After all, they're sure to face even tougher questions in the general.

Look at it this way: who should want the Republicans to avoid being asked any tough or questionable or unfair or biased questions during the primaries? A staunch Democrat. Because if that ever happened, the Democrat could look forward to going up against a paper tiger.

Even if every single question was hostile in the Republican debate, that wouldn't show a liberal bias. That would help the Republicans. The harsher the scrutiny is now, the better the nominee will end up being — both because the voters will make a better choice (they won't vote for a candidate who failed all those tests) and because the nominee will be well-practiced in defending against the attacks (and if they are reprised in the general, the nominee will be better-positioned to brush them off as "old" and "discredited").