The spin from the Democratic Party Super PAC, formerly known as the news media, is Republicans do not want to answer tough questions.
I will let readers decide whether the objection is that these were tough questions or, as the candidates complained, sill and disrespectful.
In order, here are the early questions.
(To all) "What's your biggest weakness?"
(To Trump) Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?
(To Carson) You have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes, and -- I've looked at it -- and this is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I've had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this. If you were to took a 10 percent tax, with the numbers right now in total personal income, you're gonna come in with bring in $1.5 trillion. That is less than half of what we bring in right now. And by the way, it's gonna leave us in a $2 trillion hole. So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?
(To Kasich) Well, let's just get more pointed about it. You said yesterday that you were hearing proposals that were just crazy from your colleagues. Who were you talking about?
(To Trump to respond to Kasich) Mr. Trump, 30 seconds.
(To Carson to respond to Kasich) Dr. Carson, let me get 30 seconds with Dr. Carson.
(This is a debate? You get 30 seconds to respond? What the heck?)
(The candidates began discussing taxes without prompting. Fiorina said she would reduce the
(To Fiorina) You want to bring 70,000 pages to three?
(To Fiorina) Is that using really small type?
(To Fiorina again, same question) Is that using really small type?
(To Rubio) You've been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. You've had a big accomplishment in the Senate, an immigration bill providing a path to citizenship the conservatives in your party hate, and even you don't support anymore. Now, you're skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or least finish what you start?
(To Rubio) So when the Sun-Sentinel says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?
(To Rubio) Well, do you hate your job?
(To Rubio who said Obama and others missed Senate votes when they ran for president) Is that the standard?
(To Bush) Ben Bernanke, who was appointed Fed chairman by your brother, recently wrote a book in which he said he no longer considers himself a Republican because the Republican Party has given in to know- nothingism. Is that why you're having a difficult time in this race?
(To Fiorina on being fired) I just wonder, in terms of all of that -- you know, we look back, your board fired you. I just wondered why you think we should hire you now.
(To Fiorina about Tom Perkins who said firing her was a mistake) I think his quote was that, "if you pay zero dollars in taxes, you should get zero votes. If you pay a million dollars, you should get a million votes." Is this the type of person you want defending you?
(To Cruz) Senator Cruz. Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear of -- another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you're not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?
(Cruz responded: You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. (APPLAUSE) This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions -- "Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?" "Ben Carson, can you do math?" "John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?" "Marco Rubio, why don't you resign?" "Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?" How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?)
(To Cruz) So, this is a question about the budget, which you have 30 seconds left to answer, should you choose to do so.
(Cruz responded: Let me be clear. The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. (LAUGHTER) And nobody watching at home believed that any of the moderators had any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions that are being asked shouldn't be trying to get people to tear into each other. It should be what are your substantive positions?")
(That led top this exchange):
QUINTANILLA: OK. (inaudible) I asked you about the debt limit and I got no answer.(To Paul) Senator Paul, the budget deal crafted by Speaker Boehner and passed by the House today makes cuts in entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security disability, which are the very programs conservatives say need cutting to shrink government and solve our country's long-term budget deficit. Do you oppose that budget deal because it doesn't cut those programs enough?
CRUZ: You want me to answer that question? I'm happy to answer the question...
CRUZ: Let me tell you how that question...
CRUZ: Let me tell you how that question...
HARWOOD: Senator Paul, I've got a question for you on the same subject.
CRUZ: ... so you don't actually want to hear the answer, John?
HARWOOD: Senator Paul?
(To Paul) Senator, if what you just said is true, why did Speaker Boehner craft this deal and why did Paul Ryan, who has a strong reputation for fiscal discipline, vote for it?
(To Christie) You've said that we need to raise the retirement age for Social Security. You think that we need to cut benefits for people who make over $80,000 and eliminate them entirely for seniors who are making over $200,000. Governor Huckabee, who is here on the stage, has said that you and others who think this way are trying to rob seniors of the benefits that they've earned. It raises the question: When it is acceptable to break a social compact?
(To Huckabee) We promised we would get to everyone this block. Governor Huckabee, I'm going to give you 60 seconds on this.
The full Washington Post transcript is here.
There were some substantive questions, but this was not a debate. It was a catty joint interview in which the moderators made it about them, not the Republican candidates. Interruptions were often. Time was miserly. The moderators were political hacks. This was supposed to be about business, taxes and the economy. Instead this was a comic book version of a presidential debate.
The problem was not that the questions were tough, but that the questions were goofy.
But the candidates saved it by pushing back. Great job, Republicans.
Meanwhile, Drama Queens took to Twitter to clutch their pearls.
@matthewjdowd You are absolutely, right. How many debates did DNC hold on Fox News? Democracy broke in 2008 according to you.— Don Surber (@donsurber) October 31, 2015