Now, I know that CNN's avowed purpose was to get the participants to engage with each other rather than answering questions from the moderator and panel members. The idea, as explained by moderator Jake Tapper in promos leading up to the broadcast, was that such exchanges would lead to a real give and take concerning the participants' various positions on a variety of issues and that these sorts of conversations/debates would be preferable to the old political debate format of panel members asking the questions. That old format, the CNN guys say, allowed the respondents to fall back on talking points and pat answers rather than being forced to extemporize on their positions on the issues .
Nice try, but, in my view, as bad as the old format may have been (and it never was a real debate)-- even that would have been preferable to the school yard taunting and name calling that characterized much of Wednesday night's "debate". And what was worse, was that the questions that were asked by Tapper et al seemed to me to be couched in terms that were virtually guaranteed to start a fight. To wit: rather than asking Dr. Ben Carson for his view of the connection between immunization and autism, Tapper asserted that Mr. Trump had made that specific connection and then asked Carson to "Tell Mr. Trump why he is wrong". Now, if you have ever heard Donald Trump speak more than two sentences on any topic, you will know, with certainty, that when ANY suggestion is made that Mr. Trump has taken a position or stated an opinion that is slightly incorrect, outright wrong, mistaken, or not fully informed or that he himself is, in fact, less than perfect or sits anywhere other than on the right hand of God--that suggestion will be met by a backlash of bombastic, braggadocio reaching biblical proportions!!
Now, you'll never make me believe that Jake Tapper is not smart enough to know that characteristic of "The Donald", and the Trump-Carson set up was only one of many such provocative questions, including those posed to the combinations of Trump-Fiorina, Trump-Bush, Trump-Paul, etc. By the way, are you seeing a trend here? So I am left with the conclusion that the questions were deliberately couched in adversarial terms precisely to get kinds of reactions that they did. Whether this was done to boost ratings and viewership or just to make the candidates look foolish, I cannot say. But I would not doubt that it did both, although some of the candidates (guess who) needed no help in looking foolish.
I will have more to say as the debates continue---WATCH THIS SPACE