Well, the third debate is in the books, and it was another dominating outing for Hillary, another debate where Trump kept the brainwashed 40% in line, and another debate where the ensuing week will be terrible for Trump.
And the crazy thing is, I thought Chris Wallace did everything he could to throw Trump a lifeline. Think about it:
Conservative wedge issue dream sequence to open.
Wallace opened the debate with about 40 minutes on conservative wedge issues. The Supreme Court first to help bring home wavering conservatives. Then guns. Then abortion. Then illegal immigration. Yep, the first 4 questions were the Holy Quartet of Fox News conservative wedge issues.
Of course, Hillary crushed it on all of them, but don’t overlook what Wallace chose to open the debate with not just for one question, but for several.
Attacking Hillary first, holding off on the Trump negatives until later.
Wallace had to ask about the big attacks on the candidates — sexual assault allegations, refusal to accept Democracy, and Wikileaks. But notice how he did it. The very first one of those Wallace brought up was Wikileaks. Yep, that was more important to get to first, I guess. And he didn’t get to sexual assault or trying to undermine our democracy until well into the debate, after a lot of people probably tuned out.
Helping frame the sexual assault allegations; trying to give Trump an out on supporting democracy.
When he did ask Trump the bad questions, he tried to spoon feed them to Trump.
He framed the question about sexual assault as “why aren’t they telling the truth” using the question itself to imply that the veracity of the accusations is in doubt. That was as soft, as generous to Trump, as he could have brought it up.
Then, on the question on which Trump hung himself, Wallace actually tried to bail Trump out. After Trump said he might not accept the election results, Wallace laid out for him in detail why he shouldn’t say that and then gave him a second chance to correct his debate-ending error. Trump was too dumb to take it, but Wallace still tried to throw him a life preserver.
Framing his economic question in conservative terms.
How about the economy? When he did ask about the economy, he framed it for the audience as being about Hillary favoring more government. He did ask Trump about his numbers not adding up, but of course he had already framed Hillary for conservatives as being for big government (and conservatives don’t care about things like numbers adding up or science).
And of course Wallace also threw in an Obamacare question, framed as an attack on Obamacare.
LYING about the stimulus bill.
Wallace falsely claimed that the stimulus caused the slowdown. I’m not looking at a transcript, but I think that was the phrase. He’s a liar. The stimulus did not cause any slowdown, and it helped pull us out of recession.
Someone should FactCheck Wallace on that.
This was the question that made me most mad, besides starting the debate with 30-40 minutes of conservative wedge issue questions.
Advocating for cutting Social Security and Medicare.
He asked two questions about a Fox News favorite, cutting social security and Medicare and the debt — but he did it in a way that tried to push the audience toward supporting cuts. First, he brought up the debt, setting up the notion we can’t afford to take care of our seniors.
Then, the coup de grace for Fox and the elites who want to cut Social Security and Medicare was that he asked those questions in a ridiculously slanted way. He set it up as a choice between making cuts now or letting the programs die. As if there’s not other options.
In my opinion, framing that false choice was a complete and total abuse of his position as moderator.
Ignoring the debate ground rules.
He closed the debate by ignoring the ground rules — admitting that the campaigns had negotiated an agreement not to have closing statements, but he was just going to ignore that and put them on the spot anyway.
While that statement was great for Hillary (and absolute home run), it was still wrong of the moderator to do that to candidates who carefully negotiated the ground rules.
Finally, look at everything he didn’t ask:
- Climate change
- Family and medical leave
- How to lift people out of poverty.
- How to help the middle class.
- Equal pay.
- Energy or, God forbid, renewable energy.
- Child care.
- Minimum wage.
- Collective bargaining rights.
- Are corporations people?
- Money in politics.
- Reining in Wall Street abuses.
The list goes on and on.
I know some have praised Wallace, but that’s only true if you grade him on a curve (like how some grade Trump’s debates) and don’t think about what he actually said, what he didn’t bring up, and how he framed things and/or tried to throw help to Trump.
There’s so much a good moderator could have asked about which impact people’s lives, instead of this litany of conservative wedge issues and false attacks on Democratic economic proposals.
The crazy thing is Hillary is so good — and Trump so bad — that even Fox News’ framing couldn’t save Trump.
But I really hope after this disservice to the nation, neither Wallace nor Fox are allowed the legitimacy of hosting another debate again.
Update: Great catch in the comments by GloPan about how the 2nd Amendment question and Wallace's reference to the OpenDebate questions shows Wallace’s subtle bias in action.
Excellent analysis. The big “tell” for me was when Wallace framed the gun question in terms of the 2nd Amendment. He rightly said that 2A was one of the very top questions voted on by debate watchers on OpenDebate — it was in fact #2. The #1 question, however, was submitted by Richard Martinez whose son died in the Santa Barbara shootings and it was about universal background checks on gun sales. In the run up to the last debate, there was an all-out battle between the NRA and the gun violence prevention community in driving their supporters to vote in order to win the #1 spot. That Wallace reference OpenDebate but chose the framing for the #2 question clearly betrayed his bias.