Little wonder. When you only have 30 seconds and you're therefore pushed for airtime, that leaves you few opportunities to aggressively go after your fellow candidates -- at least not without coming across as being vicious and petty.
It would have been more appropriate to let the candidates ask questions of one another. But that, of course, would have meant less time for answering vital questions, such as whether a candidate prefers "American Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars"
To that urgent question, Newt Gingrich replied immediately "American Idol." Sorry, Newt, but knowing you, I doubt you could have named the winner of that show this year if your life depended on it. More importantly, neither Gingrich nor any of the other candidates should have been subjected to such nonsense.
Nevertheless, answers to these trivial questions could have important implications. Tim Pawlenty was forced to choose between Coke and Pepsi. He said, "Coke." I guess that answer reduced substantially any support he might otherwise have enjoyed from Pepsi or its huge employee base in Texas.
Of course, if you had asked a journalist the same question, the response would have been, "As a journalist, I am not allowed to choose sides among types of cell phones or colas."
Then there was what I termed "the big freeze" in this contest. From the number of questions tossed to Herman Cain and Ron Paul, you would have thought that they were the obvious frontrunners in the race. Meanwhile, the true frontrunner -- at least for now -- is Mitt Romney. He spent much of the debate just looking presidential. And former Speaker Gingrich, who had to fight to even participate in the contest, spent most of his time looking frustrated.
Hey, I'm not a CNN basher. For one thing, they are headquartered in Atlanta, where I live. But I hope all of the networks and news associations learn a big lesson from this debate. It's shouldn't be about the media. It should be about the candidates.