It’s hard to see how Jeb Bush recovers from his self-inflected wound at Wednesday’s CNBC Republican debate in Boulder when he went after Marco Rubio just after the young senator had hit one out of the park. Rubio was defending himself from an editorial in the Sun Sentinel calling on Marco to stop “ripping off” the public and quit the Senate because of his poor attendance record. Rubio responded that John Kerry and Barack Obama had been even more truant from the Senate while running for president and the paper had not only ignored that, but given these men their endorsement. It was an example of liberal media bias at its most obvious. The crowd erupted in its first ovation of the night. Advantage Rubio.
Clueless, Bush jumped in as if nothing had happened, taking the paper’s side and schoolmarmishly doubling down on Marco. He got his head handed to him by Rubio (politely) and the audience. It was so mishandled on Bush’s part, such an obvious case of self-sabotage, it left you wondering whether Jeb really wants to be president. You didn’t have to be a Freudian to think his unconscious had gotten the better of him — well, unconscious mixed with envy mixed with entitlement mixed with who knows. During the break you heard what Ross Perot famously called “the giant sucking sound,” but this time it was of pledged Bush supporters calling their bundlers.
But that’s just, as we say in H-wood, the B-story. Everyone already knows Jeb Bush’s financial backers have been nervous for some time about his campaign. I think it is effectively over after Wednesday night, as are those of almost all the other candidates but four — Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz. Christie did a good job at the CNBC debate but I doubt it’s enough for a revival. And Fiorina, much as I admire her and have admired her, is fading. The rest are also-rans of also-rans. The human ego being what it is, it’s unlikely they will be absenting themselves any time soon. They will hang on at least until the Fox Business debate in Milwaukee on November 10. But the smart ones will do the graceful thing as Rick Perry did and bow out.
The big story — the A-story — on Wednesday night — the actual full blown, clumsily-executed seppuku — was CNBC. The network will never seem the same. Their moderators — Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla — were so obviously biased you would have thought it was a parody, if you hadn’t known it was real, a kind of black comic nightmare out of a leftwing theatre of the absurd. Ted Cruz superbly caught the temper of the evening when he called them out, specifying how they had attempted to poleax each of the candidates one-by-one. This turned the already alienated audience completely against the moderators with the candidates abandoning their competition and joining forces as well against the moderators in a red versus blue color war. It was fascinating to watch and quite amusing
But more than that, the debate revealed something I had thought about before, but never seen so clearly — how bias can affect the brain, almost make it dysfunctional. I assume John Howard is an intelligent man. He writes for the New York Times. (Make of that what you will, but I did write for that newspaper myself once upon a time, so mind your manners.) Nevertheless, Harwood did something extraordinary. He lied about Rubio’s tax plan in the exact same way not once but twice — once at the debate and once about two weeks before the debate. What made it extraordinary was that Harwood had apologized for that same lie the first time on Twitter on October 14 and then lied again Wednesday night as if he didn’t remember his own apology and correction. (The Federalist has the full story with the tweet – Surprise! John Harwood Lied About Rubio’s Tax Plan…)
Cognitive disorder? Quite possibly. I submit that media bias (and the moral narcissism from which it stems) can be so strong that it is akin to a brain disease. It literally renders you stupid or makes you disbelieve what you know to be true. Bias has hallucinogenic properties. Who knew?
It remains to be seen what CNBC will do with John Harwood. Given the history of NBC, they’ll probably make him their new president.
UPDATE: neo-neocon has some interesting observations on Harwood.