Hillary Clinton still selfishly insists on breathing. Donald Trump heroically maintained a form of consciousness. Trump wins. Signed, the media.
The idea for the Commander in Chief forum seemed decent, but two things utterly wrecked the evening: the half-hour slice given each candidate was inadequate to discuss substantive issues; and Matt Lauer.
Most of that fault? Matt Lauer.
It’s easy enough in any situation to feel that the ‘ref’ has not been fair. A moderator hitting both sides equally may seem like they’re attacking your candidate, and not going hard enough against the opposition. That’s not the problem here.
Lauer started his interview by sandbagging Hillary Clinton, interrupting her first answer with a lengthy “question” about the email server that was both unrelated to the supposed topic of the evening, and weighted with built-in scorn up to and including the idea that Clinton’s non-crime was “disqualifying” of her candidacy. Before Hillary could complete her answer to this are-we-really-going-to-do-this zinger, Lauer interrupted her again. With another email question. Then he did it again.
Watching a replay of the affair, it’s not that Matt Lauer interrupted some of Hillary Clinton’s answers. It’s that he interrupted all of HIllary Clinton’s answers. Repeatedly, he leaped in mid-sentence, first to spew out ‘questions’ that were actually lengthy position statements allowing no obvious response, then to break in and remind Clinton that they were running out of time when she tried to beat Lauer’s words into an actual question. Lauer displayed a level of disrespect and antagonism to Hillary Clinton that wasn’t just unprofessional, it was punchable.
Even when Trump was producing a running stream of non-connected thoughts, Lauer sat back until Trump had come stumbling to a halt. He didn’t challenge Trump’s flat-out lies, and several times handed the Republican candidate open-ended questions with an intellectual challenge between “what’s your favorite color” and “how cool are puppies?” Lauer never hit Trump with anything remotely equivalent to emails—nothing about his taxes, his failed business deals, his 3,500 lawsuits, or the handy bribes that made some of those lawsuits go away. Since this was ostensibly a forum on military issues, Lauer might have asked Trump to explain his attacks on a Gold-Star family, or the five deferments that kept Trump from ever having to come near service of his own. Nope.
Overall he treated Trump like a respected businessman, while addressing Clinton as if she was a PA assigned to warm up his coffee between floats in the Macy’s parade.
Without the much-scorned teleprompter that has kept Trump modestly on-track in recent speeches, what was revealed—again—was a man so utterly devoid of tact, truthfulness, or information that anyone watching should have seen enough to know that Donald Trump as president would be a catastrophe of dinosaur killer scale.
In less than twenty minutes of talking, Donald Trump generated a list of statements, any one of which should be genuinely disqualifying.
- He called the existing generals of the US military “rubble” and declared that he would replace them with selections from the list of retirees who endorsed Trump.
- Given the opportunity to walk back his previous statement, Trump instead doubled-down on the idea that rape in the military is the inevitable result of allowing women to serve alongside men.
- He spent a full two minutes singing the praises of Vladimir Putin, and when reminded of a few of Putin’s foibles—invading Crimea, supporting dictators, generally killing people he doesn’t like—Trump replied with a remark about “thing Obama has done.”
- He excused his Putin love by declaring that Putin “has an 82 percent approval rating.” 82 percent? Bah! Fearless Leader won last election with 117 percent of vote!
- Trump once again called on America to replace nation-building with empire-building by “taking Iraq’s oil.” Using some kind of unspecified special troops that we can only assume includes Bruce Willis and the best damn oil-stealers on Earth.
- He revealed that he doesn’t have a secret plan to eliminate ISIS, except that he does have a secret plan, except that he’s going to ask the generals, and maybe he will make a hybrid plan, or maybe not. But he’s not telling.
- In perhaps the peak insanity of the night (though really, by the time we reached this point, my insanity detector was numb) Trump let America in on his secret military intelligence briefings and revealed the startling fact that he could tell that the intelligence staff was really pissed at Obama, and Clinton, and John Kerry … because “I’m really good at body language.”
- He finished by declaring that Hillary Clinton has “a happy trigger.”
Oh yeah, and Trump was against going into Iraq and Libya and anything you see, like film showing Trump cheerleading for going into Iraq and Libya, is a lie. So there.
Donald Trump revealed a not at all surprising, but still jaw-dropping ignorance of the US military, the government, the world, and the fact that we’re all capable of actually checking to see what he said last week. His answers included the usual Trump line up: Suggesting that the United States engage in a war crime, a jihad on military leaders who didn’t bow, and enough Putin love that it called for a clean-up crew.
And still, pundits are on your television right this moment, pretending that there was some equivalence between Trump’s and Clinton’s performance. Because … Honestly, I no longer know.