Only debate sponsors, not candidates, should call the shots

Before I express my own opinion about "Debategate," I recommend that everyone read Dana Milbank's Nov. 3 column in The Washington Post, "Dear GOP: Hire me and I'll give you the debate of your dreams." It brilliantly outlines the true goal of all the candidates.


You must understand that all the GOP candidates desire a fawning "conservative" as moderator. In addition, no tough questions are to be asked. Any question which points out an apparent weakness or deficiency in the candidate is prohibited. It would also be wonderful if the panel of journalists put their hands on the Bible and swear that they have voted in every Republican primary ever held. This dictum was proposed by Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE.

Cruz obviously wants to reinstitute the practice of a loyalty oath. This was in vogue during the height of the Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) era. It's just perfect that Cruz is the sponsor of this ridiculous idea, since he actually sounds like McCarthy when he speaks.

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE, the so called master wizard negotiator, has taken it upon himself to deal with the networks. No more working with the others, such as "Ben and me" at the last debate. It should come as no surprise that Trump is in it for himself and if the others don't benefit, it doesn't bother him one bit.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has not actually caught fire, has criticized past participants of "liberal bias." What chutzpah — he should be sending thank you notes to all the debate journalists for not bringing up Bridgegate.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has received the most criticism for letting the whole process get away from his control. Well, he had no business being involved in the first place. Look, the candidates are running for president of the United States; they are grown-ups. They should show some backbone. If you don't like the format or panel in a particular debate, don't show up! Or go to the debate site, set up a podium, get a microphone and blast the entire event. Otherwise go to the debate, state your case and stop complaining.

The press is not there to make you look good and have a nice evening. The job of the press is to be adversarial, to get under your skin and make you uncomfortable. It is not a pep rally. They are not cheerleaders. They are not potted plants. If they are rude, abrasive, contentious, mocking, dismissive? So be it. This exercise is to see how you, the presidential aspirant, handle pressure. You want to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin? Why are you bothered by CNBC correspondent John Harwood?

Those who sponsor the debates should call the shots. Period. The Republican Party and the candidates should have no role whatsoever. Sure, there will be imperfect debates, but this is a democracy. It is, by its essential nature, messy and chaotic. This is not the Soviet Union; the ruling class cannot stage manage everything. It's not an academic seminar or a Rotary Club meeting, either. It's not nice and polite. It's intended to be wild and out of order. If you can't take it, drop out and go back to your staid law firm.

Enough carping. Suit up and get in the game. Then we the voters will decide what you are really made of.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.