OPINION

Geraldo Rivera: CNBC's debate, a positive for Rubio and Cruz and a non-event for Trump and Carson

BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 28:  Presidential candidates Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (L-R), Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) take part in the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate at University of Colorado's Coors Events Center October 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado.  Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the third set of Republican presidential debates.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 28: Presidential candidates Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (L-R), Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) take part in the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate at University of Colorado's Coors Events Center October 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colorado. Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the third set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

Before I get to last night’s presidential debate, let me start with the grim, rainy, melancholy but still inspiring and reassuring funeral for hero cop Randolph Holder yesterday in Jamaica, Queens.

Brother Craig and I went to pay our respects, parking blocks away and walking through a gray rain that ranged from mist to downpour toward the Greater Allen AME Cathedral, the weather matching the mood.

Passing rank upon rank of thousands of cops from the city and from as far away as Puerto Rico, all gathered to salute their slain colleague, I said hello and expressed my condolences to as many of them as I could, amazed as I always am by how wonderfully integrated the NYPD is, and how young so many of these cops are, many if not most still in their 20s.

It is sad to me that my friend [Trump] has chosen to make the expulsion of the undocumented the center piece of his candidacy. It is obvious that he has calculated that his Republican primary audience cares deeply about this issue, which in all likelihood never, ever affected their own lives in any measurable way.

- Geraldo Rivera

Making our way to the modest cathedral, we were spotted by an inspector friend who had his aide escort us through the ranks to a riser right behind New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray, both of whom were standing at attention, hatless in the rain.

And I was glad in retrospect that there were no controversies, not about the mayor or about Rev. Al Sharpton’s revoked invitation to speak or about #blacklivesmatter hasn’t protested the death of black officer Holder probably because he was wearing blue when he was killed. I said through my tears this morning on my radio show how remarkable it is that of the four fallen NYPD officers killed in the line of duty this year, one is Hispanic, one Asian, one white and one black, united in heroic death.

RIP Officer Randolph Holder. Thank you for your service to your city. And thank you for bringing us together, at least to grieve your passing.

OK, so I got home in time to welcome back to the city my big son, 37-year-old Gabriel, his wife Deb and the second of my three grandchildren, Desmond “Desi” Rivera. Together with my second son Cruz, we watched the not-so-great Third Presidential Debate on CNBC. As you have heard by now, the network’s moderators got crushed by candidates united in their disdain for gotcha questions on silly topics like Fantasy Football.

Here’s Chris Christie.

“Carl (Quintanilla), are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football? (LAUGHTER) We have — wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us. And we're talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?”

Here’s my least favorite candidate, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. In fairness, he got the best biggest applause line of the night by attacking the mainstream liberal media and again those CNBC moderators.

CRUZ: “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? (MASSIVE APPLAUSE).

CNBC’s lead moderator John Harwood has really been getting the business today, getting excoriated for questions like when he asked Donald Trump if the billionaire businessman’s candidacy wasn’t “a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”

TRUMP: “No, not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question the way you say that.” Then, after giving lip service to his economic policy proposals, Trump pivoted to immigration and the damn Great Wall of Trump.

“As far as the wall is concerned, we're going to build a wall. We're going to create a border. We're going to let people in, but they're going to come in legally.”

Obviously he’s conscious of the criticism he’s receiving for his proposal to deport even the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. There is even the growing movement among disparate Hispanic groups calling on NBC network to withdraw its invitation to Trump to host Saturday Night Live on November 7th. Since those boycott threats, Trump has softened his tone, at least taking the edge off.

TRUMP: “We can do a wall. We're going to have a big, fat beautiful door right in the middle of the wall. We're going to have people come in, but they're coming in legally. And Mexico's going to pay for the wall because Mexico – I love the Mexican people; I respect the Mexican leaders – but the leaders are much sharper, smarter and more cunning than our leaders.”

It is sad to me that my friend has chosen to make the expulsion of the undocumented the center piece of his candidacy. It is obvious that he has calculated that his Republican primary audience cares deeply about this issue, which in all likelihood never, ever affected their own lives in any measurable way.

As far as the two Latino candidates, both Texas senator Ted Cruz and Florida senator Marco Rubio continue to irk me by promoting the myth that their families fled Cuba to escape Fidel Castro and communist oppression. Their relatives came to the U.S. during the U.S.-backed Batista regime and they should both be ashamed of their pandering.

In substantive terms, both Rubio and Cruz did well. The Texas senator forging that narrative of CNBC’s liberal bias, as Marco Rubio destroyed the candidacy of his former friend Gov. Jeb Bush with his adroit handling of Bush’s disingenuous charge that Rubio is absent too often from the Senate and should therefore resign.

The third Republican debate was a big miss for CNBC; a positive for Rubio and Cruz and a non-event for Trump and Carson. Everybody else on the panel reminded me of the Mets pitching staff in last night’s 7-1 loss to the K.C. Royals in Game Two of the World Series. Forgettable.

Geraldo Rivera currently serves as a roaming correspondent-at-large for Fox News Channel. He joined the network in 2001 as a war correspondent.