Late-Night MSNBC Cannot Stop Bashing CNN Moderators Over Format, Squabbling

Considering how much bashing MSNBC has done of the CNN Democratic presidential debates and the moderators (Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper), it was no surprise when the late-night portion of their coverage (12:30 a.m.-2:00 a.m. Eastern Thursday) repeatedly bashed CNN for having and insufficiently covered issues like education and impeachment and created too much conflict.

MSNBC political analyst and former Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter bemoaned at the 12:40 a.m. Eastern mark that “my problem with both of these debates...was like they were arguing about stuff that's not really very relevant to the viewers,” which AM Joy host Joy Reid interjected to blame on the moderators.

 

 

“There were a lot of viewers are Republicans and independents. They needed to prosecute Trump in these debates, show who brings the best chops to actually summarize the case against Trump and except at the very end, in their summations, they weren't doing. That they were off on these tangents. They weren't on job one,” Alter added.

Near the end of the midnight Eastern hour, Reid was speaking with former Obama campaign aide Jim Messina when she stated that Senator Kamala Harris (CA) “took a lot of hits” because “it was set up by the moderator, who decided to make them fight, you know, from the time the bell rang.”

Messina obviously agreed: “[T]he moderator basically threw red meat in there and say, ‘let's have a fight.’”

TheBeat DC’s Tiffany Cross took shots at CNN after the top of the hour, arguing that even though “education is a huge issue” and the debate was in “Betsy DeVos’s backyard,” “we didn’t hear a lot on that tonight.”

Reid agreed while The Root’s Jason Johnson cited the Flint water supply and “environmental racism,” but before those two provided those takes, Cross blasted CNN as wanting to start fights (click “expand”):

CROSS: I think the whole, like, “let's, you know, start a fight” and it really — the moderators it was like, you know, “Kamala, he was talking about your mama yesterday.”

REID: Right.

JOHNSON: Right.

REID: “What are you going to say about it?”

CROSS: “What do you think about that?” That's not — that’s not helpful and it's challenging when people are trying to get a sound bite and go viral when you're singing for your supper because you have a clapping audience and not really offering people meat to the bone, so I really look forward to the debate went no audience. 

Alter continued the pile-driving of CNN (and arguably the candidates as well) by trashing the lack of time spent on climate change, impeachment, and “investing in the cities” (click “expand”):

And also just reinvesting in the cities. They should have a plan for that and there was very little talk about climate change. Jay Inslee keeps trying to bring it up. Everybody should be talking about that. Instead we've had, like, five hours of debate about let's ditch Obamacare and do something else. Like this is one issue of 20 important issues that immigration and health care have had a disproportionate amount of attention. I think impeachment was underplayed. It was Castro had a great line against Bennett where Bennet said “no, you know, they shouldn't impeach because Mitch McConnell is going to not do it in the senate and then trump will say ‘see, I got acquitted in the Senate.’” And Castro had a great point. He said “if they don't impeach, Trump will say even the Democrats weren't willing do say that I was guilty” which — which now everybody should focus on that because the burden really is on those Democrats. Otherwise, trump will make that argument. 

Meanwhile, around 1:24 a.m. Eastern, Reid brought in Vox’s Erza Klein to supposedly offer astute analysis on policy matters when she concluded his appearance on immigration and another dig at CNN (click “expand”):

REID: There was also a long debate on immigration. How useful do you think was? Because it was framed by the questioners as just do you want open borders or not? Did we get much out of that over the two nights? 

KLEIN: I think the way, look, the moderates have been trying to pick at every point of controversy for the Democrats and so, when you mainly had an immigration debate, was a debate about decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing and then, to some degree, giving health care to undocumented immigrants. These are both extremely, extremely unpopular policies. I think there are broader policies in the field. There's a lot Democrats can and would do to take away the worst of what Donald Trump has done and there were some interesting ideas out there.... But the fact they keep getting caught in, again, and largely due to moderation on this incredibly unpopular corner of the plan and in the fact that they've embraced it, by way, which the Democratic party would not have done in this way a couple of years ago was striking.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s post-debate analysis on August 1, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Decision 2020: Post-Debate Analysis
August 1, 2019
12:40 a.m. Eastern

JONATHAN ALTER: Well, this was my problem with both of these debates, is that it was like they were arguing about stuff that's not really very relevant to the viewers. 

JOY REID: Prompted, by the way, 

ALTER: And the viewers —

REID: — by the way, by the questions. 

ALTER: — yes. There were a lot of viewers are Republicans and independents. They needed to prosecute Trump in these debates, show who brings the best chops to actually summarize the case against Trump and except at the very end, in their summations, they weren't doing. That they were off on these tangents. They weren't on job one. 

TIFFANY CROSS: But I think they were operating from the perspective that most of the people in the Democratic base —

DAVID JOLLY: That’s it.

CROSS: — and even the persuadables, they know what a travesty Trump is.

ALTER: Yeah, that's the wrong assumption. 

CROSS: I don’t know, but for people who are still on the fence about that, that's not who they should waste their time going after. They should talk about policies and speak to the American people, not to the people who are like — it depends on who they put up. I might still vote for Trump. Those people are a waste of time.

(....)

12:51 a.m. Eastern

REID: Let's talk about Kamala Harris real quick because I remember, you know, a couple years ago people saying she was the next Barack Obama,, that she had the x-factor that Barack Obama had in a lot of ways. What did you make of her tonight? She took a lot of hits, I mean, and to be fair, it was set up by the moderator, who decided to make them fight, you know, from the time the bell rang, but how do you think she did? 

JIM MESSINA: Yeah, the moderator basically threw red meat in there and say, “let's have a fight.” She was clearly the winner of the first debate. Everyone sort of coming back. The vice president was not going to let her do what she did the first time. She got some friendly fire from Tulsi and other folks, as well and I think was a little unsteady. I think she, you know, took a couple shots and didn't seem to be as good as I've seen her in the past. That said, if you just play the electoral map out, I think she's clearly going to be one of the two, three, four people that are going to be in this thing the whole way. I think the map sets up very well for her and I continue to think she'll have momentum. It just wasn't her best night. 

(....)

1:07 a.m. Eastern

CROSS: Education is a huge issue. You're right there in Detroit. This is Betsy Devos's backyard, secretary of education who has been a travesty in that state and now in the federal government. This is something a lot of families across the country care about. It’s one of the top five issues that people care about. We didn't hear a lot on that tonight and I think the whole, like, “let's, you know, start a fight” and it really — the moderators it was like, you know, “Kamala, he was talking about your mama yesterday.”

REID: Right.

JASON JOHNSON: Right.

REID: “What are you going to say about it?”

CROSS: “What do you think about that?” That's not — that’s not helpful and it's challenging when people are trying to get a sound bite and go viral when you're singing for your supper because you have a clapping audience and not really offering people meat to the bone, so I really look forward to the debate went no audience. 

REID: Yeah. With no audience or no people and by the way, the debate was in Detroit. Not that far from Flint. You didn't hear about environmental racism. We did hear about that last night. That didn’t come up tonight.

JOHNSON: Right, but when they got into the question, I agree with Tiffany except 

REID: Twice, yeah.

JOHNSON: — when we were talking about education. Only Bennet talked about he said education is a big issue. I was surprised you were in Detroit and there were so few Detroit oriented responses. 

REID: Exactly.

JOHNSON: I think Cory Booker said 

REID: Even mentioned —

JOHNSON: — the reason we lost that Michigan is because of voter suppression and this, that, and the other. I was surprised at how few times they actually seemed to recognize where they were and why that should matter because if you've got an audience there, you should play off that audience and it was a mistake, I think, on the part of a lot of the candidates.

(....)

1:09 a.m. Eastern

REID: All politics is local and this is a must-win state for Democrats. They must have it back and it is interesting that Flint didn't come up. You know, these specific issues didn't come up. It seems like it would be a easy line to just throw into the audience. 

ALTER: And also just reinvesting in the cities. 

REID: Yeah. We just had a big city attack.

ALTER: They should have a plan for that and there was very little talk about climate change. Jay Inslee keeps trying to bring it up. Everybody should be talking about that. Instead we've had, like, five hours of debate about let's ditch Obamacare and do something else. Like this is one issue of 20 important issues that immigration and health care have had a disproportionate amount of attention. I think impeachment was underplayed. 

CROSS: Absolutely. 

ALTER: It was Castro had a great line against Bennett where Bennet said “no, you know, they shouldn't impeach because Mitch McConnell is going to not do it in the senate and then trump will say ‘see, I got acquitted in the Senate.’” And Castro had a great point. He said “if they don't impeach, Trump will say even the Democrats weren't willing do say that I was guilty” which — which now everybody should focus on that because the burden really is on those Democrats. Otherwise, trump will make that argument. 

REID: Absolutely.

(....)

1:24 a.m. Eastern

REID: There was also a long debate on immigration. How useful do you think was? Because it was framed by the questioners as just do you want open borders or not? Did we get much out of that over the two nights? 

EZRA KLEIN: I think the way, look, the moderates have been trying to pick at every point of controversy for the Democrats and so, when you mainly had an immigration debate, was a debate about decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing and then, to some degree, giving health care to undocumented immigrants. These are both extremely, extremely unpopular policies. I think there are broader policies in the field. There's a lot Democrats can and would do to take away the worst of what Donald Trump has done and there were some interesting ideas out there. Elizabeth Warren has one. Joaquin Castro another that would actually increase legal migration which I think is important and something Democrats don’t talk about enough. It's a huge advantage for America that so many people want to come here, live here, work here, help build this country into something stronger. But the fact they keep getting caught in, again, and largely due to moderation on this incredibly unpopular corner of the plan and in the fact that they've embraced it, by way, which the Democratic party would not have done in this way a couple of years ago was striking. But Joe Biden has not embraced this suggests — speaks to the way he’s already sort of running towards the general and feels a lot more secure, I think, in his standing among the Democratic electorate, for better or for worse.

REID: Yes, indeed.

NB Daily 2020 Presidential Debates Education Environment Push to Impeach Trump Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Race Issues MSNBC Video Government & Press Joy Reid Jonathan Alter Ezra Klein Jason Johnson Kamala Harris Joe Biden Cory Booker Jim Messina
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