It’s a gift that keeps on giving, moreover, as the one-line defense from CNBC spokesman Brian Steel insists on something no one is contesting: that those who run for “leader of the free world should be able to answer tough questions.”

Truth is, CNBC’s Waterloo had little to do with its moderators’ questions and everything to do with the snark and contempt they came drenched in. For example, Mr. Harwood’s characterization of Donald Trump’s bid as a “comic book version of a presidential campaign” did not make his question any tougher. It simply made it insulting.

More illuminating is how the CNBC moderators consistently challenged the anti-big-government assumptions of the Republicans who stood on stage before them.

CNBC’s Sharon Epperson asked Carly Fiorina, “Should the federal government play a larger role in helping to set up retirement plans” for workers? Becky Quick wondered if Mike Huckabee’s complaints about income inequality meant he favored “specific steps” corporate America should be forced to take to reduce it. Jim Cramer asked Mr. Trump whether the feds should be “controlling” drug prices. While Carl Quintanilla fantasized about a role for the federal government in regulating fantasy football.