Critics: CNN’s Debate ‘Bleak, Fearful’ But ‘Most Informative of the Season’

By Mark Joyella 

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump didn’t wait for the GOP debate to end to share his displeasure with host network CNN.

“I think it’s very sad that CNN tries to lead Jeb Bush, Governor Bush, down a road where it’s all, ‘Mr. Trump this,’ and ‘Mr. Trump that,’” Trump said, suggesting the network was urging candidates to engage with Trump in the name of higher ratings.

The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik described CNN as “relentless” in trying to create conflict, writing “of course, conflict makes for more engaging TV. But CNN did not have to be so heavy-handed in constantly trying to pit one candidate against the other.”

The Atlantic described it as “a bleak, fearful debate,” and said “the increasingly beleaguered moderators sought, and sometimes failed, to maintain control,” noting that at one point Wolf Blitzer was forced to talk over Ted Cruz, who had ignored reminders his time was up.

Some of the fear came directly from the nature of the questions, as The Washington Post’s Janelle Ross noted, with plenty of talk of war and terror, but many foreign policy questions left unasked:

Tuesday night’s debate — in both the questions from the journalists and the answers from the candidates — framed all of the country’s most significant foreign policy questions in terms of threats and strong, mostly military responses. It was also a debate in which the merits and costs of forcing other countries to bend to the United States’ will was simply absent from the discussion.

Writing at Politico, Hadas Gold credited CNN with producing “the smoothest and most informative debate of the raucous campaign season.”

Chief moderator Wolf Blitzer< remained fully in charge, at one point brushing off a braying Ted Cruz, seeking to inject himself into an exchange, with a cool, “These are the rules all of you agreed to.” And when the situation called for tougher questioning, with aggressive follow-ups, there were (Hugh) Hewitt and CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Each succeeded in drilling deep in their questioning without appearing argumentative.