Moderators for the upcoming presidential debates must be shaking in their boots after the roasting Matt Lauer got for his efforts at last week’s “Commander in Chief Town Hall.” True, Lester Holt, Chris Wallace, Martha Raddatz, and Anderson Cooper more closely approximate actual journalists than does Lauer, but they must be wondering whether their upcoming assignments will be good career moves after all.
In our survey over the weekend, people overwhelming thought Lauer did lousy job: 61% thought he did an utterly dreadful job, and another 25% thought he was just bad. (You can read all the comments here: surveysummary_edited)
Here’s one particularly strong criticism:
He and I are both graduates of the same well rated journalism school. He was apparently ill served by his education—he is no more a professional journalist than any of the entertainers at corrupt Fox Lies. A disgusting display, like the rest of this absurd campaign.
Poor, uninformed and unfocused moderator too concerned with his appearance and the style of the interview instead of the subject, the responses and the relevance to the purpose. Too short in length of time and allowed to go in purposeless directions, again, more for show and not for relevance. Waste of time for the intent, and simply more fodder for the media circus and surrogates to confuse and entertain the audience.
A great majority—68%—also thought his performance was sexist, with Lauer drilling Hillary Clinton endlessly on her never-ending email server issues, while letting Donald Trump float one absurd proposal after another.
In retrospect, Bernie Sanders’ complaint that he’s tired of hearing about Hillary’s email problems and urging us all to drop it was sheer genius, knowing full well that the media doesn’t work that way. They’ll keep tearing at that bone long after all the meat is gone.
But Lauer is hardly the first moderator or interviewer that Trump has bamboozled. The problem is that he breaks all molds for political candidates—well, okay, Sarah Palin did exhibit some of the same craziness. Now, Trump is a dangerous candidate, who would do terrible things to the country should somehow he get elected, but he does have his talents. He’s “good with the body language,” as he said.
That’s right, he can read people, he knows how to get a crowd worked up, how to get them on their feet and yelling, in ways Hillary Clinton can’t do and probably, in her heart of hearts, doesn’t want to do. He says things—”The problem with the country is those Mexicans, they’re rapists and murders,” or “We need to bar all Muslims until we can figure out what’s going on”—not because he believes them, not even because he understands or cares about the ramifications of what he’s saying, but because he knows they will get a rise out some part of the public—and every last talking head.
The moderators of the upcoming debates are paying the piper for the media’s folly in treating Donald Trump like a legitimate candidate—until, by god, he is so legitimate he might actually occupy the White House. And the reason they’ve treated him with kid gloves, as Steve Fine said recently, is click bait. They run a discussion of Hillary Clinton’s erudite policy positions and they get crickets, no pick up from the viewing audience at all. But they discuss some off-the-wall tweet that Trump fires out in the middle of the night and that becomes what the media is talking about, lighting social media on fire everyday.
It would have been better, early on, when Trump came out with one of his preposterous statements—”We should have taken Iraq’s oil,” for example—had the interviewer slapped the side of his head, dropped his jaw, and said “What utter bullshit!”
“I’ll reduce all the generals to rubble,” says the Donald, and the journalist across the table jumps to her feet and says, “I didn’t go to college all those years to listen to this crap!” and stomps out of the room.
“On day one, I’ll start deporting all the illegal immigrants,” says the Trumpmeister, and his interlocutor laughs so hard he falls on the floor, holding his ribs and waiving to the cameraman to cut the feed.
But it’s too late for that, now. We’ve been trained to hear Donald share his obnoxious, hateful bile with no effective rebuttal. And debating what he said afterwards with panels of esteemed experts and experienced journalists hour after hour on MSNBC or CNN or even Fox has no impact—no, it has the opposite impact, as Trump knows that no publicity is bad publicity so long as they spell your name right.
Not that Trump won any friends among the people who took our survey:
Donald Trump danced around answering very serious questions about rape in the military, and now that I think about it, he didn’t say anything of value. He, again, was way too busy telling the world how great he is. I do not understand why so many people cannot grasp that he is nothing more than a con man. He continually refers to Clinton as “crooked Hillary” but as far as I am concerned, if journalists were not so afraid of being “bullied” by him, they would dig, do the research, and nail him with questions about his relationship with the Russians, from whom is he getting a huge amount of money to run his campaign (it certainly isn’t HIM).
Nor did Hillary fare particularly well among respondents:
Anyone who has followed the “careers” of either of these entertainers knows that they will never be true to any words they utter. Either one will do whatever with the military that will make they and their friends the most return on investment. And that usually means going around the world blowing stuff up and putting targets on the backs of our military personnel. Sociopaths have zero empathy for others, including those ‘others’ that wear the uniform of this country’s military.
As a veteran myself who has made fairly significant use of VA services in the past several years, I was aggrieved that this forum allowed Trump to train his idiocy on issues that matter deeply to veterans and that Trump obviously knows little about and probably cares even less:
Matt Lauer’s failure to raise important questions about Donald Trump’s rich-boy service deferments, and failure to challenge him on the imperialist implications of “just take the oil,” failure to challenge his statements that the military leaders were “reduced to rubble” (yet claiming that 88 of these apparently useless leaders had endorsed him) did not reveal significant deficiencies in Trump’s claims. His VA medical strategies were not realistic (let veterans go anywhere, get any treatment, and he would pay for it) but no explanation where $ would come from. Response to suicide question was trite.
But none of this is going to matter greatly in this election. People who would view the town hall and take time to fill out this survey already follow the issues, they’ve taken the measure of both candidates, and, in Trump’s case, they have likely decided that hell will freeze over before they vote for him. (For Clinton, people may still be deciding whether they want to risk voting for Jill Stein or writing in Bernie Sanders in what seems like an increasingly perilous protest.)
But they’re not the ones who are going to decide this election. No, that will be people in the middle, independents, disaffected voters who don’t follow the issues closely, who grab their impressions from little snippets on the tube.
They see Donald Trump speaking in a Black Church in Detroit and they say, “Hey, wait a minute! He must not be a racist after all.”
They see him chatting amiably with Matt Lauer and think, “Not so fast. He’s a pretty reasonable guy.”
Against a stronger opponent, Donald’s antics would have sunk him long ago. But while Hillary understands the issues at great depth and knows what programs are in place or could be in place to address them, she comes across as querulous and defensive. She doesn’t smile. She starts jabbing the air. To the person who’s not deep into the issues, that’s off-putting.
Let’s hope she recovers from her walking pneumonia and comes to the next debate acting like she enjoys campaigning. Nobody’s making her run, after all.
Editor, LA Progressive